CURECT position on CT legalization bills (7371 and 1085)

Our purpose as CURE-CT is to end the war on our communities, ensure those who have been harmed are made whole, and to create opportunities for our communities to thrive equal to other what other communities are being given. Those are our goals and why we support the legalization of cannabis.  These bills do not achieve what we are trying to achieve, and thus while we support legalization of cannabis, and support moving these bills forward so we can improve the language, we oppose 7371 and 1085 as written. Both bills contain great elements and also some rather frightening elements. We look forward to working with everyone to sift the good from the bad and find something we can all support.  HB7371 comes much closer to something we can support with a few changes. SB1085 falls short on some basic principles.

Quick notes on other bills

Driving statute: Support. This is the same as alcohol and that's how we should treat cannabis.

Jobs: We agree employers should be able to set standards for their establishment but we should also be including fair labor standards to cannabis users and employees of cannabis industry.

Adding opiate use disorder to list of conditions: Absolutely in favor 100%. Cannabis can be an exit drug and this policy alone would be a big step forward in addressing opiate addiction.

On 7371 and 1085 - What is our intent here?

We must start this conversation by stating what the purpose of all this discussion on cannabis is about. Our purpose as CURE-CT is to end the war on our communities, ensure those who have been harmed are made whole, and to create opportunities for our communities to thrive equal to other what other communities are being given. Those are our goals and why we support the legalization of cannabis.  These bills do not achieve what we are trying to achieve, and thus while we support legalization of cannabis, and support moving these bills forward so we can improve the language, we oppose 7371 and 1085 as written. Both bills contain great elements and also some rather frightening elements. We look forward to working with everyone to sift the good from the bad and find something we can all support.  HB7371 comes much closer to something we can support with a few changes. SB1085 falls short on some basic principles.

But first, we need to have a conservation about what the purpose of the legalization of cannabis really is. Is the purpose of these bills to end the war on cannabis users? To end the philosophy of mass incarceration? If so, these bills do not accomplish that. The judiciary bill 1805 does not decriminalize the sale of cannabis. These bills do not decriminalize growing cannabis. These bills still have mandatory minimum of over 5+ years for conduct that will be happening across the state and making already wealthy people from out of state even more wealthy. These bills do not end the war on our community and thus we must oppose this being passed under the guise of legalizing cannabis.

On the creation of opportunity front, While there is some strong and worthwhile language on equity, sadly other portions undermine that language. The way 7371 is worded it’s granting an unimaginably profitable exclusive privilege to a small group who had the ability to pay to play in our exclusively white and wealthy medical marijuana industry. What many of you consider “Tightly regulated” actually means “Not accessible to non millionaires” to everyone else.  For a clear example of the racist impact of this approach , 7371 and 1085 make it possible for Russian Billionaire Boris Jordan from Curaleaf to make millions selling edibles, but New Haven Resident and Barbecue entrepreneur Ricky “Ricky D” Evans  would be denied the same opportunity given to Boris, who is an out of state investor. That is wrong.

These bills do not address the core problem: The war on drugs was racist, and so is the cannabis industry.  We need real liberation and investment for our communities, not measures that only further entrench racism and call it legalization. Let’s move forward REAL legalization together. We have the solutions in our own bill drafted by CURECT which can be found at curect.org. We look forward to working with everyone to find language that works, and we have a number of recommendations to do so.  All you need to do is make sure our communities have a seat at the table. Together we can do it right, and do right by all our communities.


Specific policy recommendations:
HB7371
AN ACT CONCERNING THE RETAIL SALE OF CANNABIS

1. Equity efforts are clear and we appreciate that. That being said, there are sections which directly undermine the equity portions. Namely “Section 17” Granting emergency powers.

Section 4-3, page 4 The section with wording for a 3 month head start is oddly worded with the granting of licenses mentioned for equity applicants but then application opened “at the same time” as equity to the medical market. There’s a huge difference between the time to apply and actually being granted a license. But if this clause would mean that equity licenses must be issued 3 months before other licenses are granted, then this is a solid section. 3 months is not sufficient. We would recommend 1 year to allow for a full grow and production cycle.  A solid section that would is completely invalidated by section 17.

Definition of Equity applicant needs work. Section 4-1, Equity applicant should not be just anyone who can say they have experience. This is well intentioned but the current language allows for folks working in Colorado to move to CT and claim to be an equity applicant. That is NOT equity.  Equity applicant qualifications should be directly related to having suffered oppression. Must include those who suffered distribution and/or cultivation charges including felonies. An additional group that should be included is veterans who have suffered a less than honorable discharge for cannabis related situations.

Section 4-3, “At the same time” needs a lot of further explanation. Does this mean Equity applicants can apply under emergencies regulations or not? Also if the current owners can apply at the same time, that invalidates the head start and will clog the system with massive applications immediately. This will create a backlog of applications completely erasing the equity head start.

Strike “except that existing medical cannabis dispensaries and producers may apply for licenses pursuant to sections 1 to 17, inclusive, of this act at the same time as such equity applicants;”

2. Regarding Commision Structure and equity goals: LOVE the 2 social justice seats. Remove the Cannabis Commission from under Department of Consumer Protection. We must slow down the whole process to allow the equity pieces to be implemented before anyone is granted an additional license. Fees above $5000 are an unnecessary barrier to entry for small business.

Sections 4-2,4-4, 4-5 and 4-6 are great in theory but lack any enforcement mechanism.  Ensuring employment must be specified to be at all levels of the company, not be simply entry level.  Our(CURECT) bill creates the office of justice reinvestment as the enforcement mechanism.

There should be a limit on the total number licenses any entity may hold or purchase.

Fees should be set in accordance with other fees to open a bar,  brewery, hookah lounge or alcohol production facility.

3. Absolutely must remove emergency contingency clause Sec. 17; There is no emergency need to retail cannabis immediately. The higher priority is healing the communities who were damaged by our mistakes as a state. Strike this section.

4. Home grow/Microbusiness should be allowed to be competitive with Massachusetts.  No need to study home grow as it is a common practice in other states and has not been an issue.

Add Home grow provisions and include microbusiness as a license type under the commision. A micro business can be a “Home based vertically integrated cannabis business which does not exceed 5,000 total square feet or $100,000 in annual revenue dedicated to the cultivation of cannabis plants, and/or the manufacture of cannabis products pursuant to other home based business law. Microbusinesses may cultivate, process and distribute products to licensed retailers under one license.”

5. Office of Justice Investment; Independent oversight body over the Cannabis Commission.  Will follow-up on how well equity applicants are doing, hold the Commission accountable by tracking and assessing equity benchmarks;  Has the power to place a hold on actions of the Commission if it is not acting in compliance with the equity requirements set forth by law.  There are simply too many variables and promises being made to move forward without a watchdog agency to hold everyone accountable.

SB1085 AN ACT CONCERNING THE LEGALIZATION OF THE RETAIL SALE AND POSSESSION OF CANNABIS AND CONCERNING ERASURE OF CRIMINAL RECORDS IN THE CASE OF CONVICTIONS BASED ON THE POSSESSION OF A SMALL AMOUNT OF CANNABIS.”

1. This bill does not decriminalize Distribution/intent to sell or Cultivation. This bill just slightly increases decrim, and gives special privileges to current “licensed” distributors to engage in economic activity denied to everyone else.This will not change disparate impact to our communities. After decrim the arrest rate stayed at 4-1. After decrim police frequently added intent to sell. Which is not decriminalized under this bill Distribution first offense still carries jail time. 1085 has a mandatory minimum for large scale distribution. Distribution and cultivation must be decriminalized, and those currently in prison released.

Please add “Distribution/Intent to sell” and “Cultivation” to all changes of the criminal code, and reduce any and all penalties to civil infractions equal to similar actions for alcohol and make the changes RETROACTIVE to the passage of this act.  

2. Expungement is saying we admit what we did was wrong and it should not hurt people moving forward. Are we not admitting that criminalizing distribution and cultivation was wrong when we are literally giving other people the right to do it? The hypocrisy in leaving out distribution and cultivation while at the same time creating licenses for distribution and cultivation is offensive on its face. Creating a right that will only be given to a few dozen people should be illegal.

Add “Distribution/Intent to sell” and “Cultivation” to all expungement programs

3. Public consumption Section 8 b-1,b-2 needs clarification. This reads like it protects folks in public housing or certain established smoking areas which is a great addition, especially in regards to public housing.

But the tobacco bar portion is confusing. Would this empower hookah lounges to become consumption spaces? Would a separate license be needed to fulfill this portion or can any establishment that meets the criteria allow it? What is the makeup of eligible establishments? This seems overly overly complicated if the goal is to allow on-site consumption which is a vital part of any legalization framework.

Make consumption lounges a license type to be included in all equity programs.

4. Pages 10-14 make it abundantly clear that dispensary owners want to be protected against charges of distribution to a minor. Why is there 4 pages on protecting current dispensary owners, but 0 pages on who will be released from prison? The prioritization of certain communities over others is on full display on pages 10-14.  

Add measures to release anyone currently in prison for distribution or cultivation, and to create a prison to prosperity pipeline incentivizing the hire of returning citizens into new cannabis businesses and training programs.

5. Create the office of justice reinvestment to oversee the expungement outreach program, provide real re-entry support, and ensure that revenue directed at reentry support goes toward those directly impacted by the war on cannabis.

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