Connecticut’s adult-use law was packed with provisions to ensure an equitable industry, and now the state’s Social Equity Council has a new chairman.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced on Dec. 27 that he selected Paul O. Robertson, deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), to serve as Chair of the state’s Social Equity Council.

The Social Equity Council seeks to ensure that Connecticut’s adult-use cannabis program is fairly represented, and ensure that funds from the adult-use cannabis program go to the right communities that are disproportionately hit hardest by the War on Drugs, according to the council’s Code of Ethics. Robertson’s new role begins when the seat becomes vacant at the beginning of next year.

“Connecticut’s adult-use cannabis program is at a pivotal time right now, and I appreciate the steps the Social Equity Council has taken to date to ensure that it is rolled out in an equitable manner as we envisioned when we enacted this law,” Governor Lamont said. “Paul will bring relevant experience and strong existing relationships with council members to his role as chair, and I thank him for agreeing to take on this leadership position.”

Deputy Commissioner Robertson succeeds Andréa Comer, deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), as chair of the Social Equity Council. 

Deputy Commissioner Comer plans to depart her job at DCP and her membership on the council to take upon a new role as chief of staff for Treasurer-elect Erick Russell. That new role will be filled when he takes the oath of office on January 4, 2023. Per state statutes, the governor must select one of the council’s members to serve as its new chair.

“I am grateful to Governor Lamont for entrusting me with this important role and I look forward to serving the state in this new capacity,” Deputy Commissioner Robertson said. “Deputy Commissioner Comer has done a tremendous job leading the Social Equity Council to this point, and I plan to continue to work alongside its members and our partner agencies to ensure the adult-use cannabis market grows equitably.”

The Purpose of the Social Equity Council

The enforcement of cannabis laws disproportionately targeted certain communities, and cannabis minority ownership remains low, leading many states to adopt social equity provisions to make an effort to fix some lingering issues. 

In Connecticut, the state’s census tracts identify Disproportionately Impacted Areas to promote and encourage the full participation in the cannabis industry by people from communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition. The recommended tracts are available to see on the Connecticut Open Data Portal.

To qualify as a Disproportionately Impacted Area, those communities must have either a historical conviction rate for drug-related offenses over one-tenth, or an unemployment rate over 10%, as determined annually by the Social Equity Council.

The council provides credentials for all of its council members. The council, under Connecticut’s adult-use cannabis law, Public Act 21-1, consists of 15 members—seven of whom are appointed by legislators, four of whom are appointed by the governor, and four of whom are ex-officio members.

Other efforts are being made to right the wrongs of yesterday, such as the expungement of thousands of records involving cannabis-related convictions. Earlier in the month, Gov. Ned Lamont’s office said in a press release that records “in approximately 44,000 cases will be fully or partially erased” next month by way of “an automated erasure method.”

Connecticut’s adult-use law contained provisions to award the first retail licenses to individuals from areas most adversely affected by long standing drug policies, and to clear the records of those with certain cannabis-related convictions.

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