Cannabis plant Credit: Christine Stuart photo

A Connecticut panel advanced applications from 12 more businesses seeking to participate in the state’s fledgling adult cannabis market during a Friday meeting during which 11 other applications were denied as failing to meet the required social equity criteria. 

The dozen unnamed applicants approved by the Social Equity Council during the short meeting will be forwarded to the Department of Consumer Protection for review. They included one applicant seeking a retailer license in addition to applications for four delivery service operations, two micro cultivators, and two product packagers. 

Meanwhile, the panel approved three applications for business entities seeking to partner with social equity applicants to open commercial cannabis operations through what’s called equity joint ventures. The council denied seven other equity joint venture applications on Friday in addition to four other denials in different categories.

The council moved through its agenda in about 12 minutes with little discussion as members approved the recommendations of CohnReznick, a Hartford-based advisory firm hired to evaluate whether applicants have met the state’s social equity requirements. 

Connecticut’s commercial cannabis program was designed to ensure that communities impacted most by the war on drugs benefit from the new industry and half of the expected business licenses have been set aside for applicants who meet residency requirements and maintain a percentage of control and ownership of the operation. 

Geoffrey Magon, a senior manager at CohnReznick, said many applicants had failed to demonstrate that the social equity applicant would maintain the appropriate amount of ownership and control.

“In most cases we saw a failure or we did not see applications that passed the ownership and control set by the SEC, that’s where many of those had failed,” Magon said.

Applicants who do not meet those criteria must compete in a lottery or appeal the council’s decision to the state Supreme Court. Friday’s meeting came as more than a dozen denied applicants have filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the panel’s prior rulings. 

The complaints have largely objected to the rules and implementation of the state’s criteria regarding the ownership and control of the business by the social equity applicant. 

During Friday’s meeting, the council also noted the resignation of one of its members, Ramón Arroyo, who was appointed to the panel by the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. Andrea Comer, a consumer protection deputy commissioner who chairs the council, made the announcement. 

“On behalf of the SEC, I thank him for his service and wish him well,” Comer said. “The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, the appointing body for his position, has been notified and we anticipate that they will name a replacement soon.”

Arroyo resigned effective immediately in a one-sentence letter dated Tuesday, which did not offer an explanation. Arroyo did not immediately return a call for comment on Friday.