The end of a long process is near for the Social Equity Council and its effort to create a financially solvent reinvestment fund for prospective social equity cannabis operators, according to SEC Executive Director Ginne-Rae Clay.
Clay announced that a specific bank had been tentatively selected to oversee the loan program, but she was waiting until the state’s Attorney General’s Office and the State Treasurer had a chance to vet the bank as a potential steward of the loan fund.
“My understanding is we are very, very close to having that set up” said Clay. “Cannabis is not legal federally, so every aspect of the industry is scrutinized. We are working on creating a relationship with a bank that will be able to receive the loan repayments.”
The council approved three more Equity Joint Ventures, four workforce development plans and a social equity plan during its monthly full council meeting Tuesday.
The council unanimously approved three applications for Equity Joint Ventures to Bud-R, four workforce development plans from CT Social Equity LLC, Green Cat Company LLC, Bud-R Hartford Holding LLC and Curaleaf Groton LLC.
Clay also shared some updates on the council’s efforts to lobby for ongoing legislation. Specifically, the council is in favor of HB 6915, which would establish a program to assess public health problems that could be a result of legal adult cannabis use. It also stipulates funding for a Social Equity and Innovation Fund, which was of particular interest to the council.
“Any reduction in funding to the Social Equity and Innovation Fund undermines the SEC’s ability to reinvest in the communities that are disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs,” said Clay. “We are pleased that the committee passed the bill with substitute language and will continue to monitor this bill as it makes its way throughout the legislative process to make sure the SEIF remains untouched.”
Meanwhile, Clay reiterated the council’s opposition to HB 6700, which would create a pathway for licensed hemp farmers in the state to enter the adult-use cannabis cultivation market. The law could potentially undercut the council’s efforts to ensure that social equity candidates get priority in the legal cannabis market.
“We met with the Connecticut Hemp Industry Association’s president and lobbyists,” Clay said. “They shared their perspective and talking points. The SEC remains clear on our position in opposition of this bill.”
The council’s Investment Fund Committee reported that it was planning to engage with a third-party grant writing organization to enable dolling out of the finance dollars to prospective operators.
“We spent the last month finalizing and coming into agreement on an RFP [request for proposal] for community conversations in partnership with the outreach committee that will be held over the course of the coming next two months to get a better sense directly from the community on key areas for reinvestment where we are currently gapped at this time,” Clay said.
The investment fund would provide loans to prospective operators with social equity status. In order to obtain social equity status, applicants must show they have a majority ownership in their respective company while
“The council is looking to put about $6 million out to the community before the end of the fiscal year. We’ve identified a grant making organization that can help us put money out into the community,” said Clay.
Editor’s note: A previous version of the story got the dollar amount the council is looking to put out to the community before the end of the year wrong.