Social justice provisions or not, Connecticut could make history: if it acts soon, it may become the first state to create a legal retail market for the drug through its legislature. But advocates in Connecticut will not be satisfied by a simple legalization law, they said.
“It is incumbent on this legislature to ensure that legalization doesn’t just enrich a handful of corporations,” said Lindsay Farrell, state director of Connecticut’s progressive Working Families Party. “Rather legalization must be part of a bigger program to repair the damage done to black and brown communities.”
Democrats have been listening. As they draft and redraft their proposed marijuana legislation, the bill has moved farther in this direction.
Democrats crafting the bill have given the commission that would oversee the new recreational marijuana market a specific mandate: “promote and encourage full participation in the cannabis industry by persons from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition and enforcement.” The bill gives the commission $500,000 a year to do outreach to these communities.
The legislation also would give jobs in the new marijuana industry to people who were arrested or convicted of cannabis sale or possession, have a child or parent who was arrested or convicted of the same, or who live in high-poverty, low-employment neighborhoods in the state. People who meet this criteria — “equity applicants” — will be given the first licenses to cultivate, manufacture and grow marijuana.