The Department of Consumer Protection is still aiming for Connecticut to open its first recreational cannabis businesses by the end of the year or early next year and the Social Equity Council met Monday to help move the process along.
On Monday the Social Equity Council reversed six earlier denials for social equity status allowing those businesses to move forward with DCP to review their proposals. The council also reversed a June decision to deny social equity status to Goods THC Co and Hartford Cannabis Company. The decision helps avoid further litigation.
The council also approved plans to create a 6 to 9% interest rate for anyone who borrows some of the $50 million for social equity applicants. Anyone who goes through the accelerator program can knock 1.5% off that rate.
“We’re going to have folks with sub-700 credit scores,” Council member Avery Gaddis said. “We’re going to have folks who didn’t pay medical bills. We’re going to have folks who maybe went through a bad divorce and they have funky things in their credit report.”
Gaddis said there’s no one more “sensitive” to those situations than the folks at the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Gaddis said they are set up to give folks “a nice cash infusion, protect public resources, and at the same time help those equity-joint venture folks who may have a little rough areas with the credit situation.”
He said they won’t start pushing those people away.
“We’re trying to be like a survival knife here,” Gaddis said.
At the moment, these applicants can’t walk into a traditional bank and get a loan. Gaddis said that’s why this program exists.
So far the council has approved 69 applicants, including 22 social equity cultivators.
The council also approved workforce development plans from two companies — including Curaleaf, which owns cannabis businesses in the medical cannabis space— but not without pushback from Subira Gordon.
“The plans seem very fluffy with not a lot of details,” Gordon said.
She said there’s a lot to be desired when it comes to reaching out to communities of color in these plans.
“Where is the intentional outreach in these applications?” Gordon asked.
She said the least they can do is “prove to us you can recruit people from communities of color.”
Gordon voted against the plans because she doesn’t think the plans “meet the criteria to change cycles of generational poverty for my community.”
Social Equity Council Chair Andréa Comer said the workforce plans were based on the criteria the council developed and the “rubric” of these plans did pass.
“We just came out of executive session. I’m thinking about challenges from a litigation perspective,” Comer said. “We can always go back and look at the rubric.”
Social equity applicants often have to partner with businesses to raise the $3 million. Gordon suggested that the least they can do is prove they will help communities like hers that have been impacted by the war on drugs.
The plans were approved without Gordon’s vote.