Connecticut Set to Accept Cannabis Business License Applications

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) said that it would begin accepting applications for some adult-use cannabis license types in 30 days, following the final approval of technical assistance plans by the department’s Social Equity Council earlier on Tuesday.

“This work by the Social Equity Council is a critical step in the licensure process for the emerging Adult-Use cannabis market in Connecticut and will be instrumental in ensuring the equity goals established in the law are met,” DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said in a press release from the agency. 

Lawmakers in Connecticut legalized the use and possession of cannabis by adults last summer, making the state the fourth of five states to legalize recreational cannabis in 2021. Connecticut regulators are currently drafting rules to govern the adult-use cannabis industry, with dispensaries expected to begin selling recreational cannabis as soon as later this year. 

The DCP also announced the number of licenses for each adult-use cannabis business type that will be available in the first lottery round to be held later this year. A total of 12 retailer licenses, 10 delivery licenses and four hybrid retailer licenses will be awarded, with licenses for each type equally split among general and social equity applicants. 

The department will also award a limited number of licenses for other recreational cannabis businesses including micro-cultivators, transporters, manufacturers and product packagers in the first round lottery, with all license types equally divided among social equity and general applicants. 

“The initial number of available licenses is not a cap, but a starting point for opening the adult-use cannabis market in an effective, measured and thoughtful way,” Seagull said. “We know people are anxious to apply and see this market open, and we are hopeful that making this information available will help applicants as they begin to prepare for the lottery process.”

Most Licensed Awarded Via Lottery 

The application rounds for each of the eight license types that will be selected through the DCP’s lottery process will open on a staggered basis. The application period for the first round of lotteries will remain open for 90 days. The department also expects to open a second lottery application period for most license types in the second half of 2022.

Applications for cultivators located in a previously identified list of areas disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, which are not subject to a lottery draw, will be accepted beginning on February 3. The DCP will also begin accepting applications for cannabis retailers on February 3, with applications for other license types opening on a continuing basis through March 24, 2022.

The department will hold two lotteries for each license type, a social equity lottery and a separate lottery for general applicants. Applicants selected in the social equity lottery are subject to review by the Social Equity Council to confirm their status as social equity applicants. To qualify for social equity status, at least 65 percent of the business must be owned or controlled by individuals who meet income and residency requirements.

“Reviewing and vetting applications once they’ve been randomly selected through the lottery process will be a huge task for both DCP and the Social Equity Council,” said Andréa Comer, DCP deputy commissioner and chair of the Social Equity Council. “Establishing the number of licenses that will be available in the first application round is an important step in ensuring the Council, as well as DCP, can fairly and thoroughly review each application and issue licenses in a timely manner.”

The DCP also said that it will hold multiple lotteries to award cannabis business licenses on an ongoing basis. The department plans to announce the number of licenses that will be available before each application round. Rod Marriott, the director of the DCP’s Drug Control Division, encouraged applicants to complete their applications for cannabis business licenses “carefully and thoroughly.”

“Applications for most license types will be entered into a lottery,” Marriot noted. “There is no advantage for applicants who submit their lottery applications first. Applicants should prioritize submitting the best application they can.”

Applicants for some types of businesses, including licensed medical cannabis producers transitioning to the adult-use market and medical cannabis dispensaries converting to a hybrid retailer license, are not subject to a lottery process. Applicants applying for a cannabis establishment license as an Equity Joint Venture or Social Equity Partner with a licensed medical marijuana producer or dispensary facility and those applying for the Social Equity Council Micro-Cultivator Assistance Program will also be awarded without a lottery.

Applications for cannabis business licenses will be available from the DCP online.

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New York Governor to Create $200M Cannabis Fund with Social Equity Focus

Using the occasion of her first State of the State address to highlight the plan, New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s administration said that the new, lucrative industry should consider those living in less privileged areas. 

“New York’s legalized cannabis industry is in development, with the State expecting to issue licenses for adult recreational use. But the rise of what is estimated to be a $4.2 billion industry must create opportunities for all New Yorkers, particularly those from historically marginalized communities,” the governor’s office said in a handbook detailing her proposals for the coming year. 

Hochul, who became New York’s first female governor in August after her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, resigned amid scandal, gave her State of the State address on Wednesday.

“In support of that goal, Governor Hochul will create a $200 million public-private fund to support social equity applicants as they plan for and build out their businesses,” the handbook continued. “Licensing fees and tax revenue will seed the fund and leverage significant private investment.”

Since taking office, Hochul has been vocal in her desire to get the state’s legal pot program off the ground and running. A spokesperson for Hochul said in August that nominating “individuals with diverse experiences and subject matter expertise, who are representative of communities from across the state, to the Cannabis Control Board is a priority” for the new governor.

In September, Hochul made a pair of appointments to the board of Office of Cannabis Management, which has been tasked with “[creating and implementing] a comprehensive regulatory framework for New York’s cannabis industry, including the production, licensing, packaging, marketing and sale of cannabis products.”

The two positions had been left unfilled, typifying the lack of progress that had been made on the new cannabis law since it was signed by Cuomo last spring.

“New York’s cannabis industry has stalled for far too long—I am making important appointments to set the Office of Cannabis Management up for success so they can hit the ground running,” Hochul said at the time of the appointments.

That same month, Hochul announced that New York lawmakers had finally confirmed the appointment of Tremaine Wright as Chair of New York’s Cannabis Control Board (CCB) and Christopher Alexander as Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).

“One of my top priorities is to finally get New York’s cannabis industry up and running—this has been long overdue, but we’re going to make up for lost time with the Senate confirmation of Tremaine Wright as Chair of the Cannabis Control Board and Christopher Alexander as Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management,” Hochul said in a statement at the time.

In the handbook put out by her office this week, Hochul’s administration said that the $200 million fund will help the state meet its goal of awarding 50 percent of licenses for cannabis business to “social equity candidates,” which include “individuals from impacted communities, minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs), distressed farmers, justice-involved individuals, and service-disabled veterans.” 

In addition, the administration said that New York will “will create a State-run business incubator to further support equity applicants.”

“While New York has committed to making its cannabis industry more equitable, this action will put that commitment into practice. New York will lead where many other states have fallen short,” the book stated. “The governor is focused on providing more than basic business support and training for our future cannabis entrepreneurs, and this fund will provide direct capital and startup financing to social equity applicants as the State takes meaningful steps to ensuring that New York’s cannabis industry is the most diverse and inclusive in the nation.”

New York officially legalized weed last March, when Cuomo signed a bill into law. While dispensaries likely won’t open their doors until next year, many parts of legalization, including possession and public consumption, took effect immediately.

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Illinois Cannabis Sales Doubled in 2021

The first year of legal cannabis sales in Illinois was a roaring success, but it turns out the second year was even better. 

Twice as good, in fact.

A report from the grimly named Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) showed that adult-use cannabis sales in the state totaled $1,379,088,278.61 in 2021––more than double the figure from the opening year of sales in 2020, which were roughly $669 million. 

The figures released by the IDFPR provide insight into the quantity of cannabis products sold, and when customers were buying them. 

The biggest month for pot sales in 2021 came at the very end of the year, with $137,896,859.11 generated in December. That was also the case in 2020, when the $86,857,898.27 worth of cannabis sales made December the highest-grossing month of that year. 

The IDFPR’s report also details the source of the money. Last year, $943,013,285.67 of the cannabis sales came from Illinois residents, while $436,176,093.93 came from out-of-state residents.

A total of 30,342,937 cannabis items were sold last year––up from 14,485,704 in 2020. 

Illinois’ recreational cannabis market opened for business on New Year’s Day 2020, a milestone that was met with long lines outside the states’ newly opened dispensaries. The first day of sales alone generated more than $3 million, and many of the shops ran out of weed during the opening week.

The figures continued to climb, giving the administration of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who signed the bill legalizing recreational cannabis in 2019, a reason to take a victory lap.

In June of 2020, Pritzker’s then-senior adviser for cannabis control Toi Hutchinson, who has since been hired as the Marijuana Policy Project’s president and CEO, said that the “successful launch of the Illinois legal cannabis industry represents new opportunities for entrepreneurs and the very communities that have historically been harmed by the failed war on drugs.” 

“The administration is dedicated to providing multiple points of entry into this new industry, from dispensary owners to transporters, to ensure legalization is equitable and accessible for all Illinoisans,” Hutchinson said. 

To that end, the economics have only been one facet of Illinois’ new marijuana law. As with other states that have legalized cannabis, there has also been a concerted effort by policymakers to redress previous convictions of marijuana offenders. 

When legalization took effect in Illinois, Pritzker heralded the occasion with more than 11,000 pardons for nonviolent cannabis offenders.

“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said at the time. “We are restoring rights to tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core.”

Pritzker did the same to kick off 2021, issuing more than 9,000 pardons for low-level cannabis offenders and expunging more than 490,000 pot-related arrests.

“Statewide, Illinoisans hold hundreds of thousands low-level cannabis-related records, a burden disproportionately shouldered by communities of color,” Pritzker said in a statement released at the time. “We will never be able to fully remedy the depth of that damage. But we can govern with the courage to admit the mistakes of our past—and the decency to set a better path forward.”

While most other states have legalized cannabis through the ballot process, Illinois became the first to do so through the legislature in 2019, something Pritzker touted at the time of the bill signing.

“As the first state in the nation to fully legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process, Illinois exemplifies the best of democracy: a bipartisan and deep commitment to better the lives of all of our people,” said Pritzker.

“Legalizing adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do. This legislation will clear the cannabis-related records of nonviolent offenders through an efficient combination of automatic expungement, gubernatorial pardon and individual court action. I’m so proud that our state is leading with equity and justice in its approach to cannabis legalization and its regulatory framework. Because of the work of the people here today and so many more all across our state, Illinois is moving forward with empathy and hope.”

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Cannabis Decriminalization Reduces Racial Disparity in Arrests of Adults

An analysis of statistical data has found that cannabis decriminalization laws reduce, but not eliminate, the racial disparity in cannabis arrests that has plagued the United States for decades. However, the reduction in racial disparity was observed primarily among adults, and the research failed to reveal a similar drop among arrests of young people.

In a study published recently in the peer-reviewed academic journal Social Science & Medicine, researchers affiliated with the University of California San Diego reviewed statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Report from 2000 through 2019. Using data from 37 U.S. states including 11 states that passed marijuana decriminalization laws during that time period, researchers calculated cannabis possession arrest rates separately for Black and white people.

“Cannabis decriminalization was associated with substantially lower cannabis possession arrest rates among both adults and youths and among both Blacks and whites,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion. “It reduced racial disparity between Blacks and whites among adults but not youths.”

The 11 states that had enacted cannabis decriminalization measures saw a 70 percent reduction in total adult cannabis arrests after decriminalization, as well as a 40 percent reduction in cannabis arrests among young people. Analysis by researchers showed that the racial disparity in arrests of Black and white adults decreased significantly, dropping by 17 percent after cannabis decriminalization.

“Cannabis decriminalization seemed to be particularly beneficial to Blacks, who were suffering the most from the adverse consequences of criminal penalties,” the researchers wrote in their report. “Taken together, we recommend that lawmakers and public health researchers reconsider cannabis decriminalization as an option of cannabis liberalization, particularly in states concerning the unintended consequences and implementation costs of medical and recreational cannabis legalization.” 

However, the data failed to show a significant reduction in the racial disparity in arrests of Black people younger than 18 years old. The authors of the study suggested that the rate among young people may have remained steady partly because of the larger disparity among adults before decriminalization, “providing a greater room for reduction.” Among all 37 states analyzed, Black adults were on average four times more likely than white adults to be arrested for a cannabis offense, while Black young people were 1.8 times likelier to face a cannabis arrest than their white peers.

Racial Disparity in Cannabis Arrests Well Documented

The racial disparity in cannabis arrests in the United States has been well documented for decades, despite research consistently showing that the different racial groups use marijuana at a similar rate. 

In a 2020 report from the American Civil Liberties Union, researchers noted that arrests for cannabis possession were down 18 percent since 2010. But law enforcement still made six million such arrests made between 2010 and 2018, and Black people were more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people in all 50 states, including those that have legalized cannabis.

“On average, a Black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though Black and white people use marijuana at similar rates,” the ACLU wrote in its report. “Just as before, such racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist across the country, in every state, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor and with large and small Black populations.”

“Indeed, in every state and in over 95 percent of counties with more than 30,000 people in which at least 1 percent of the residents are Black, Black people are arrested at higher rates than white people for marijuana possession,” the report continued.

Despite the evidence that shows marijuana decriminalization laws can reduce the racial disparity in cannabis arrests, marijuana policy reform alone has not yet solved the problem. No state, even those that have enacted the broadest cannabis reforms, saw the rate of marijuana arrests become proportionately equal among Blacks and whites.

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New Jersey Lawmakers Double Cannabis Dispensary Licenses

Regulators in New Jersey on Tuesday moved to award 30 new licenses for new medical cannabis dispensaries, a significant expansion of a program that has seen slow growth.

The state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission voted to “more than [double] the number of retail locations for a growing pool of patients who for years complained about long commutes to obtain legal cannabis,” reported.

The regulatory panel distributed the 30 licenses evenly throughout the Garden State, awarding “10 each in the central, northern and southern regions of the state,” according to the website.

The expansion will result in a significant uptick to the 23 dispensaries currently serving patients throughout the state. Those stores serve “an average of 5,300 patients per retail site,” reported, and there “are about 5,000 patients enrolling every month—a pace that has not abated even with the prospect of a legal market for adult users opening in 2022.”

In October, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission “accepted the recommendation to approve 14 of the 2019 medicinal cannabis business applications that had been previously held up due to a court-ordered stay of the review process,” with “10 applications for cultivation permits and four applications for vertically integrated permits” approved to “begin preparations to serve New Jersey’s medicinal cannabis patients.” Due to increased patient need, “five more cultivation permits were awarded than had been planned in 2019,” the commission said.

“The current alternative treatment centers have not kept pace with patient need,” said Dianna Houenou, the chairwoman of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. “We constantly hear from patients that prices are too high and that there are too few dispensaries with too few product options. The situation has not changed with the legalization of recreational cannabis. Our priority is to our patients and increasing the planned number of medicinal cannabis operators in the market will greatly benefit them.” 

Last year, New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment at the ballot legalizing recreational cannabis use for adults. reported that while the 30 licenses approved on Tuesday are for medical cannabis dispensaries, if those businesses so choose, “they will have a head start in expanding their customer base to adults 21 and over once the legal market opens some time in 2022.”

Despite the voters’ approval of the amendment, “a bill outlining the legitimate market did not reach Governor Phil Murphy’s desk until February,” the website explained, and the commission “did not introduce the first round of regulations needed to run until August.”

The commission “will start accepting applications for the adult-use market from cultivators, manufacturers and testing labs for the recreational market on December 15, and from dispensaries on March 15,” according to the website.

In February, Murphy signed a bill officially ending the prohibition on pot in New Jersey.

“Our current marijuana prohibition laws have failed every test of social justice, which is why for years I’ve strongly supported the legalization of adult-use cannabis. Maintaining a status quo that allows tens of thousands, disproportionately people of color, to be arrested in New Jersey each year for low-level drug offenses is unjust and indefensible,” Murphy said in a statement after signing the legislation into law. 

“This November, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly in support of creating a well-regulated adult-use cannabis market. Although this process has taken longer than anticipated, I believe it is ending in the right place and will ultimately serve as a national model.”

The new law, Murphy said, “will establish an industry that brings equity and economic opportunity to our communities, while establishing minimum standards for safe products and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on real public safety matters.”

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New York Bill Adds Transgender Community to Social Equity Program

A New York lawmaker has proposed legislation that would extend the benefits of the state’s cannabis social equity program to members of the transgender and nonbinary communities. 

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) passed by New York lawmakers in March includes social and economic equity provisions designed to give licensing priority for the state’s upcoming adult-use cannabis market to members of communities disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs, minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses and other marginalized and under-represented groups. 

The legislation does not specifically mention transgender or nonbinary individuals, guidelines that unintentionally force such individuals to choose “between their gender identity and receiving priority for a license,” according to a bill introduced recently by Democratic New York state Senator Jeremy Cooney. For example, a nonbinary or transgender person assigned the female sex at birth would have to misgender themselves to qualify for social and economic equity benefits.

“The MRTA was crafted with a focus on equity at all stages of implementation in the new recreational adult-use cannabis market. I am proud to sponsor legislation that will build upon that foundation to include members of the transgender and nonbinary communities,” Cooney said in a press release. “No New Yorker should have to choose between their identity and economic opportunity. I look forward to creating a more inclusive new cannabis market for members of the LGTBQ+ community.”

Under Cooney’s proposal, Senate Bill 7157, the MRTA would be amended to explicitly include transgender and nonbinary persons in the provisions extending licensing priority. The legislation defines a transgender or binary person as “any person who has a gender identity or expression different from the sex assigned to that individual at birth.”

“This legislation would help to prevent New Yorkers who are transgender or nonbinary from being denied this economic opportunity because they live as their authentic selves. In addition, it recognizes that these New Yorkers suffer financially due to social and systemic bias, and that steps must be taken to mitigate that harm,” Kevin Barry, president of the Greater Rochester LGBTQ+ Political Caucus, said of Cooney’s bill. “While there is a long way to go, this bill is a well thought step toward equity for persons who are transgender or nonbinary. It is critical that lawmakers consider this part of their constituency whenever they create or vote on legislation.”

Advocates Support Proposal

Rachel Leavy, the owner of Infused Events Rochester, applauded the bill from Cooney, who has been a vocal supporter of legalizing recreational marijuana and protecting the other-than-heterosexual community.

“As an activist in both the cannabis and LGBTQIA+ worlds, I’m thrilled to see legislation intersecting both,” Leavy said. “If this bill passes, I will have the chance to participate in the cannabis industry and carve out a space for the queer community, providing safe access to cannabis, career opportunities, and continued outreach. This bill is just the start of something much larger to address the long-overdue representation of trans and nonbinary folks like myself.”

Amanda Babine, executive director of the social and political advocacy group Equality New York, said that the organization “was proud to support the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.” 

“Since the passage, we have focused on ways we can ensure the rollout of this legislation is truly equitable,” Babine added. “We commend Senator Cooney for introducing legislation that will ensure the Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, & Non-Binary (TGNCNB) community be included in the social and economic equity plan. EQNY was proud to endorse such a strong ally like Senator Cooney.”

S. 7517 was introduced in the New York Senate by Cooney on November 12 and has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration. Senator Alessandra Biaggi, also a Democrat, has signed on as a co-sponsor of the legislation. The measure will take effect immediately if it is passed by the legislature and signed into law by New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

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Arizona Cannabis Social Equity Program Faces Legal Challenge

An Arizona nonprofit and a group of potential investors filed suit against the state’s cannabis social equity program last week, claiming its rules will lead to lucrative marijuana dispensary licenses intended for communities harmed by the War on Drugs being taken over by existing corporations.

The lawsuit brought by the Greater Phoenix Urban League and Acre 41, a group of women investors who hope to apply for a cannabis business license as social equity applicants, claims that the rules written by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) to govern the program fail to live up to the aims of Proposition 207, the cannabis legalization ballot measure passed by voters last year.

“The final rules promulgated by ADHS create what are functionally 26 ‘lottery tickets’ for qualifying individuals,” the complaint argues, “rather than a regime of continuing social equity ownership and operation.”

The suit names the State of Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey, the Department of Health Services, and the agency’s director, Don Herrington, as defendants in the legal action. The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court. The plaintiffs in the case want the court to declare the rules invalid and instruct the ADHS to write new regulations that conform with the intent of Proposition 207.

Proposition 207 requires regulators to encourage “ownership and operation” in the state’s new adult-use cannabis industry by members of communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition policies. In October, the ADHS issued its rules for the program, which sets aside 26 cannabis dispensary licenses for applicants who fulfill at least three of four criteria specified by the regulations. The health department plans to begin accepting applications later this year and award the licenses through a lottery early next year, although the suit seeks to delay further action until the case is decided by the court.

Arizona Plaintiffs Fear ‘Straw Man’ Applicants

Celestia Rodriguez of Acre 41, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, says that the rules could lead to big, existing cannabis companies using “straw men” applicants to apply for the licenses.

“My true intention is to make sure these 26 licenses stay with true social-equity licensees, as well as reinvest in and revitalize these neighborhoods that have been disproportionately affected,” Rodriguez explained to the Arizona Republic on Thursday.

She added that large cannabis companies have already started recruiting people who may qualify as co-applicants under the social equity program to form partnerships for the licenses, with the existing businesses guiding the complicated process and footing the $4,000 application fee.

“The (multi-state operators) have already been scouting the streets with flyers, mailers, and sending people door to door,” Rodriguez said. “They most definitely have been putting money into a hands-on approach to recruiting social-equity applicants.”

Once the social equity licenses are issued, Rodriquez says the corporate partners will try to take over control of the license.

“These [investors] are coming in, selling them the dream,” Rodriguez told the Phoenix New Times. “They want to buy them out for pennies, and add it to the portfolios that they are building right now.”

“The final rules promulgated by the ADHS permit owners who qualify under the Social Equity Program to enter an agreement to sell or transfer their ownership interest in the licensed entity at any point after the license is allocated, which defeats the purpose of the Social Equity Program,” the complaint filed in the lawsuit maintains.

Julie Gunnigle, attorney and political director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws of Arizona, says that activists expected large operators to vie for the social equity licenses, despite the intentions of the program.

“It’s just this giant industry grift that we all saw coming,” Gunnigle said.

“But what I didn’t anticipate,” Gunnigle continued, “was just how brazen these folks were going to be.”

The lawsuit cites other concerns the plaintiffs have with the social equity program rules, including only requiring ownership and not operation by a social equity applicant. The plaintiffs also argue that social equity businesses should be required to locate in areas impacted by cannabis prohibition and that applicants who lived in such areas as children but not recently should still qualify under the program.

Jimmy Cool, the lead attorney on the case, said that the social equity rules do not fulfill the intent of Proposition 207.

“What the voters were trying to do was enrich communities that were impacted by the drug war.” Cool said. “From our clients’ perspective, all [the program] does is enrich 26 people.”

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Meet The Parent Company’s Social Equity Corporate Venture Josephine & Billie’s

Josephine & Billie’s is celebrating its grand opening as the first social equity investment of The Parent Company by embracing minority brands and creating a retail store that welcomes all demographics.

On October 28, The Parent Company’s first social equity corporate venture fund investment, Josephine & Billie’s, announced it will be opening its doors to the public on Friday, October 29. The brand claims to be the first of its kind, with a unique “speakeasy-style” concept inspired by “tea pads” that were commonly found in Black communities during the 1920s and 1930s. The name is inspired by entertainer Josephine Baker and singer Billie Holiday—two prominent figures in Black history.

Headed by CEO Whitney Beatty and COO Ebony Andersen, this duo’s main goal was to create a welcoming dispensary experience for women of color. “Most stores are designed and built by white people, with one perspective,” Andersen said in a press release. “And women of color rarely get the opportunity to feel comfortable in those spaces. But Josephine & Billie’s was designed and built by, and for, women of color with that in mind.”

Beatty also added a statement about the need to rethink dispensary experiences for many types of consumers. “Research shows that women are more anxious than men, and data shows that black women are facing the most anxiety—and yet we have not seen a dispensary focusing on this demographic,” shared Beatty. “Josephine & Billie’s is committed to being an educational space and community where women of color, and allies, feel safe and welcomed to learn about the healing benefits of cannabis.”

Josephine & Billie’s will carry a variety of well-known cannabis products such as Monogram, Cann, Select and Kiva Confections—but with also a focus on people of color-owned, queer-owned and female-owned brands such as Ball Family Farms, Leune and California Rolls, to name a few. What makes this brand stand out isn’t just its goal for inclusivity or its unique theme. Its layout has been broken up into desired terpene profiles, such as “relief” or “focus,” to make it easier for consumers to find products that are best for them.

On June 3, Josephine & Billie’s was announced as The Parent Company’s first social equity corporate venture fund investment. Barely two weeks later, The Parent Company also announced The Peakz Company as its second social equity investment.

The Parent Company CEO, Troy Datcher, echoed the pride of contributing to the expansion of cannabis dispensaries run by minority business leaders and supporting minority-owned cannabis businesses. 

“The Parent Company is committed to leveraging our financial, social, and cultural capital to create a more inclusive cannabis community,” said Datcher in a press statement. “Josephine & Billie’s unique and necessary mission to develop a welcoming and educational retail experience, particularly for women of color, exemplifies why Whitney and Ebony are the exact types of entrepreneurs that we want to stand up and stand behind with our social equity fund as we focus on shaping this industry’s future and uplifting all communities.”

Josephine & Billie’s is located in Los Angeles, California (located on Martin Luther King Boulevard), and will be hosting its grand opening Teapad event on October 28 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

The brand welcomes people from all walks of life, and, according to its website, strives to make it welcoming for all. “We love helping women of color learn about cannabis. From THC percentages, strain types, terpene profiles, there is no question not worth asking. In our space, we are [effect-focused], an aim to help you heal, ease tension or uplift. Our M.O. is, we got you, sis. We’re here to encourage self-care and joy and to educate every woman that walks in the door, giving her a little more than she came in with.”

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Arizona’s Social Equity Cannabis Program Takes Shape

Policymakers in Arizona unveiled rules last week for a social equity cannabis program aimed at giving communities most affected by pot prohibition opportunities in the state’s newly regulated recreational cannabis market.

The Arizona Daily Star reported that the state’s Department of Health Services issued the final draft of its report on the social equity ownership program last Thursday. 

According to the Daily Star, the “major changes” issued by the department include “clearing up language around the transferability of a social equity license,” by barring “applicants from entering into prior agreements with larger retailers to sell or take over an applicant’s license.”

The Department of Health Services also voted to lower the initial application fee to $4,000 from $5,000, according to the Daily Star.

The social equity ownership program is “intended to promote the ownership and operation of licensed Marijuana Establishments by individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws,” according to the state’s Department of Health Services.

“Social equity license holders will be required to comply with all statutes and rules that govern Adult-Use Marijuana Establishment licenses, including obtaining approval to operate before opening their retail location,” the department stated. “Additionally, social equity license holders will be required to develop and implement policies to document how the Marijuana Establishment will provide a benefit to one or more communities disproportionately affected by the enforcement of Arizona’s previous marijuana laws.”

The program is born out of Proposition 207, which was passed by Arizona voters last year and legalized recreational marijuana use for adults in the state. Proposition 207 also contained a requirement for the state to “promote the ownership and operation of marijuana establishments and marijuana testing facilities by individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.”

Twenty-six licenses will be issued through the program, and the department said it will begin accepting applications in December. 

Applicants must satisfied all of the requirements for the program, which include the following: the application “must list each individual who is a principal officer or board member of the applying entity”; “[no] one can be a principal officer or board member on more than two applications”; “each principal officer or board member must attest that they do not have an excluded felony offense”; “at least 51% ownership of the applying entity must belong to principal officer(s) or board member(s) who have documentation of completing a Department required training course and who meet at least 3 out of the 4 social equity eligibility requirements”; and “documentation must be provided confirming that these individuals cannot be removed from their positions without their written consent or a court order.”

In addition to the social equity ownership program, the state’s new marijuana law also includes a remedy for individuals previously busted for cannabis.

In August, the the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County said that “an average of 650 people a week are filing petitions with the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County to have felony marijuana-related convictions wiped off their records.”

The county explained that, under Proposition 207, “residents may petition the court to have their marijuana conviction expunged.” 

“Since filing started in July 2021, the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County has granted 3,643 petitions for expungement,” the court released in a statement. “If a court grants a request to expunge a marijuana-related criminal charge, the case file and law enforcement records will be sealed, the conviction and sentence will be vacated along with any outstanding court debt imposed in connection with the expunged charge, and the defendant’s civil rights will be restored as to the marijuana-related charges.”

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San Francisco Strengthens Cannabis Social Equity Program

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently voted to approve a measure designed to strengthen the city’s cannabis social equity efforts. The legislation, which was proposed by San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed in April, builds on the city’s cannabis social equity program, which was launched in 2018 to lower barriers to cannabis licensing and provide employment opportunities for members of communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.

In a statement from the mayor’s office, Broad said that the new provisions of the social equity program approved by the board will help the city in its recovery from the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

“As San Francisco works to recover from COVID-19, it’s important that we support small businesses, including our cannabis industry,” Breed said. “This legislation helps us make sure the program continues to achieve its goals and ensure that cannabis business owners are supported and have the resources they need to be successful in San Francisco.”

Measure Supports San Francisco’s Cannabis Social Equity Program

The measure, which was passed by a unanimous vote of the board on October 5, modifies the permit process for cannabis businesses and creates new priorities for the city’s Office of Cannabis to increase opportunities for prospective social equity applicants. The legislation also provides greater ownership flexibility for approved social equity businesses while preserving original commitments of the program, according to the mayor’s office.

“Thank you to Mayor Breed for strengthening social equity and creating more economic opportunities for those hurt by the War on Drugs,” Marisa Rodriguez, the director of the Office of Cannabis, said in a statement. “Mayor Breed’s legislation ensures that there will continue to be a legacy of equity in the city for years to come.”

The legislation adds new provisions to ensure that San Francisco’s cannabis industry supports communities that have suffered the brunt of the impact from the War on Drugs. Under the program, cannabis equity applicants who are sole proprietors will be prioritized during the permitting process. Owners of non-equity businesses that support cannabis equity applicants by offering shared manufacturing opportunities will also receive heightened priority by city regulators.

Additionally, the measure shortens the time period to transfer more than a 50 percent ownership stake in a cannabis equity business from the current 10 years to five years, giving equity owners more flexibility to take on new investors and grow their companies. The legislation also requires cannabis businesses to make additional social equity contributions if they wish to reduce an equity applicant’s ownership interest by 20 percent or more. Such commitments could include opportunities to provide hiring, training and mentorship, as well as other support to cannabis social equity businesses or local community organizations.

State Grants Support Social Equity Applicants

Since San Francisco launched its cannabis social equity program in 2018, 94 social equity applicants have applied for permits to operate cannabis businesses in the city. The Office of Cannabis has so far issued a total of 36 permits to social equity applicants, including temporary and permanent permits.

City cannabis regulators also administer grants funded by state programs for individuals that meet criteria based on residency, income, criminal justice involvement and housing insecurity. 

To date, San Francisco has received $6.3 million dollars in grants from the California Department of Cannabis Control and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, which can be used for business start-up and operating costs. City officials have so far awarded approximately $3 million in grants ranging from $50,000 to $100,00 each to 45 social equity applicants.

“I’m grateful to the city and the state for this opportunity,” said Ali Jamalian, founder and CEO of Kiffen LLC and a social equity permit holder. “Thank you to the Office of Cannabis for standing up this Pilot Program. The money is incredibly helpful and allows me to scale my business during a difficult time. I’m hopeful that all eligible equity applicants will take advantage of the opportunity.”

Cindy De La Vega, an equity permit holder and the CEO of STIIIZY Union Square, said that being the owner of the first Latina-owned cannabis dispensary “feels surreal.”

“My grand opening was October 9, 2020, during a very difficult time for all of us, and especially for areas like Union Square. I am grateful for the San Francisco Equity Program and proud to be permit number eleven. I look forward to using my opportunity to show others that the San Francisco Equity Program does work and should be the blueprint for others to bring to their cities.”

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