The state Department of Consumer Protection has approved a request to keep the application period for the adult-use cannabis program open for 90 days, marking another step toward launching the recreational marijuana market.
The department announced the approval Wednesday evening.
The application period for the first lottery was initially set to be open for 60 days. During a meeting earlier this week, the Social Equity Council voted to request the consumer protection department to extend the timeframe to 90 days.
The council approved documentation requirements for social equity applicants during its December meeting, but included two caveats to the passage: The application window be extended and that the council approve a plan to provide assistance to help applicants through the process.
The Social Equity Council aims to ensure the adult-use program is equitable and benefits those who were most impacted by the war on drugs. Social equity eligibility is determined by income and whether applicants were residents of a disproportionately impacted area.
The Department of Consumer Protection approved the request through a letter from department Commissioner Michelle Seagull and Deputy Commissioner Andréa Comer to Social Equity Council Executive Director Ginne-Rae Clay.
Comer also serves as the Social Equity Council’s chairwoman.
“DCP is committed to supporting you and the Social Equity Council as you move forward in realizing the social equity goals set forth in RERACA [the Responsible and Equitable Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis],” the Wednesday letter read in part. “In that regard, please accept this letter as our commitment to keep the application period open for 90 days for all license types that will be selected through the first lottery.”
The commission plans to have a special meeting to vote on the assistance plan in the next few weeks, officials said Tuesday.
Many members were hesitant to approve the documentation requirements without assistance in place. The added caveats represented a middle ground between those members and others who wanted to push forward.
Clay and her staff are putting together a plan for assistance.
Member Christine Shaw said the plan would be important “so that we can ensure a level playing field and so that we can encourage participation by those who want to participate in this program.”
The documentation requirements, which include income and residency documentation, among other requirements, will apply to social equity applicants and businesses that want to apply for licenses to operate as “equity joint ventures.”
These ventures are for businesses that already have a medical cannabis program. They won’t be able to eliminate that program in favor of adult-use, but can provide both types of products.
To participate as a joint equity venture, businesses will have to pay fees to the Social Equity Council, and those fees will be diminished if they partner with a social equity applicant.
When the assistance program is approved, that triggers a 30-day window during which the department will decide how many licenses to approve. The application period will then open.