New mar­i­juana bill fa­vors poor res­i­dents for re­tail li­censes

The News-Times - - BUSINESS - By Em­i­lie Mun­son emu­n­[email protected]­medi­act.com; Twit­ter: @em­i­liemu­n­son

HART­FORD — Pro­po­nents of recre­ational cannabis want to use le­gal­iza­tion as a tool for lift­ing peo­ple out of poverty, a new draft of pro­posed leg­is­la­tion shows.

A re­vised ver­sion of the Gen­eral Law Com­mit­tee’s cannabis leg­is­la­tion would al­low peo­ple who have lived for five years in im­pov­er­ished cen­sus tracks with high em­ploy­ment to be among the first to ob­tain li­censes to own cannabis re­tail­ers and get those li­censes at a dis­counted rate.

This is a new ad­di­tion to the leg­is­la­ture’s def­i­ni­tion of an “eq­uity ap­pli­cant” for a cannabis re­tailer li­cense. The change is likely to ap­ply to res­i­dents of ur­ban ar­eas, but also could ap­ply to some poor ru­ral parts of the state.

The re­vi­sion will pair with leg­is­la­tion passed out of the Fi­nance, Rev­enue and Bond­ing Com­mit­tee that di­rects some of the rev­enue col­lected through the tax­a­tion of recre­ational pot to be sent to these same needy cen­sus tracks.

“We are go­ing to look not at the city level, but at ac­tual street, line-by-line, neigh­bor­hood-byneigh­bor­hood data, cen­sus track in­for­ma­tion,” said Rep. Michael D’Agostino, a Ham­den Demo­crat who chairs the Gen­eral Law Com­mit­tee and spear­headed the re­vi­sion of the leg­is­la­tion. “Where is there high un­em­ploy­ment? Where is there high poverty? These are the ar­eas that have been un­der­served and that’s any­where in the state — cities or ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, black or white, we don’t care.”

Rep. Vin­cent Can­de­lora, RNorth Bran­ford, said ex­pand­ing the eq­uity ap­pli­cant def­i­ni­tion to in­clude res­i­dents of poor neigh­bor­hoods was a po­lit­i­cal ploy to buy votes.

“Ex­pand­ing eq­uity own­ers to ru­ral, poor com­mu­ni­ties just reeks of the fact that we’re try­ing to buy more sup­port within the cham­ber as op­posed to craft­ing sound pub­lic pol­icy,” he said.

This con­cept was sup­ported by some Democrats ear­lier in the ses­sion, but not all Democrats like it. Rep. Juan Can­de­laria, D-New Haven, sees this law as a way to re­build mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties where drug ar­rests pre­vent peo­ple from ac­cess­ing work — but it has to be crafted right.

“Are we look­ing at com­mu­ni­ties that have been dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pacted by mar­i­juana-re­lated crimes or are we open­ing the door to any­body based on their un­em­ploy­ment rate?” said Can­de­laria. “I don’t think that was the pur­pose of eq­uity ap­pli­cants.”

Like in pre­vi­ous ver­sions of the bill, in the new draft peo­ple who were ar­rested or con­victed of the pos­ses­sion, sale or cul­ti­va­tion of mar­i­juana or who have a par­ent or child who was ar­rested or con­victed of the same will also be con­sid­ered “eq­uity ap­pli­cants.”

While Democrats do not want the new le­gal weed mar­ket to be dom­i­nated by tra­di­tional white cor­po­rate in­ter­ests, they rec­og­nize that poor en­trepreneur­s will need seed money to get into the cannabis busi­ness. The re­vised ver­sion of the bill, made pub­lic on Tues­day, also in­cludes a new pro­vi­sion that al­lows an eq­uity ap­pli­cant to have a backer who owns 49 per­cent of their busi­ness.

“That lets you as a new ap­pli­cant — and you don’t have the start-up costs — you can get a big part­ner be­hind you to get off the ground,” said D’Agostino. “We’re try­ing to ad­dress the is­sue they had in Mas­sachusetts where no­body ap­plied be­cause of the start-up costs.”

Can­de­laria ap­plauded the in­clu­sion of this pro­vi­sion in the bill, but wanted to lengthen the time be­fore eq­uity ap­pli­cants can sell their busi­nesses to nonequity ap­pli­cants and pro­vide eq­uity ap­pli­cants tech­ni­cal sup­port in start­ing their com­pa­nies.

The new draft also in­cludes lan­guage which re­quires re­tail­ers to have an elec­tronic “seedto-sale” track­ing sys­tem. Econ­o­mists who study le­gal mar­i­juana mar­kets say these sys­tems are im­por­tant so states have the data to ad­just their tax poli­cies or reg­u­la­tory struc­tures in the fu­ture.

“The ques­tion is does that im­pose too high of a (cost) bur­den on new re­tail­ers?” D’Agostino said.

D’Agostino be­lieves this new Gen­eral Law bill will win more sup­port­ers be­cause it amps up the leg­is­la­ture com­mit­ment to ad­dress­ing eq­uity and poverty, while in­creas­ing the reg­u­la­tion of the drug, he said.

Rep. Holly Cheese­man of Niantic, the lead Repub­li­can on the Gen­eral Law Com­mit­tee, said the new draft does noth­ing to ad­dress her con­cerns about cannabis ad­dic­tions, in­creased car ac­ci­dents, high-po­tency mar­i­juana and the cost of ad­dress­ing the drug’s so­cial ills. If Democrats want to send more money to poor com­mu­ni­ties, she asked why don’t they do so through the state bud­get in­stead of le­gal­iz­ing a drug with “de­struc­tive side ef­fects”?

Can­de­laria said Democrats would send fund to these com­mu­ni­ties if they had the rev­enue in the bud­get to do it with­out le­gal­iza­tion.

The re­vised bill is not the fi­nal leg­is­la­tion on recre­ational mar­i­juana that the House and Se­nate would vote on. This bill still needs to be com­bined with pro­posed leg­is­la­tion from the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee de­tail­ing the tax struc­ture and state uses of recre­ational cannabis rev­enue and with leg­is­la­tion from the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee re­gard­ing the crim­i­nal records of those pre­vi­ously con­victed on cannabis-re­lated charges.

“I hope we will have a con­fer­ence in a week where we can get to­gether and do it,” said D’Agostino. “It shouldn’t be too hard to bolt them all to­gether and elim­i­nate du­pli­ca­tion.”

This re­vised Gen­eral Law bill still does not per­mit Con­necti­cut res­i­dents to grow their own cannabis, but like pre­vi­ous ver­sions, it says grow-your-own should be stud­ied. That pro­vi­sion may change be­fore fi­nal pas­sage, how­ever.

“We’re still talk­ing about that,” said D’Agostino. “I per­son­ally would like to see it at least for med­i­cal pa­tients, but it’s one of those is­sues we re­ally need to dis­cuss it among those mem­bers to see if these is enough sup­port to in­clude it.”

Lib­er­tar­i­ans fa­vor grow-yourown cannabis style leg­is­la­tion, said Can­de­lora. While it can be dif­fi­cult to reg­u­late how many plants peo­ple grow at home — im­por­tant for dis­tin­guish­ing growth for per­sonal use ver­sus sale — the do-it-your­self model sep­a­rates le­gal­iza­tion from com­mer­cial in­ter­ests. Can­de­lora, who now op­poses le­gal­iza­tion, would sup­port that.

“Ver­mont’s model is a much, I think, safer model be­cause peo­ple aren’t in­cen­tivized to profit and peo­ple are given the free­dom to just grow it in their own home if they choose,” he said.

The draft bill main­tains the same struc­ture of cannabis cul­ti­va­tors, man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­tail­ers over­seen by a Cannabis Com­mis­sion and the state De­part­ment of Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion.

The leg­is­la­tion makes many tech­ni­cal changes to spell out reg­u­la­tions that the cannabis in­dus­try must com­ply with — for ex­am­ple, rules about how cannabis prod­ucts must be pack­aged. The leg­is­la­tion also strength­ens the abil­ity of the De­part­ment of Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion to en­force those reg­u­la­tions.

Only adults 21 years and older will be al­lowed to pur­chase recre­ational cannabis. Pur­chases will be lim­ited to one ounce per trans­ac­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.