14 July 2022 |

Social equity in CT, California’s testing, and tax revenue for public libraries.

By Kaitlin Domangue

Connecticut chooses social equity applicants​

Connecticut has awarded 16 social equity commercial cannabis licenses to applicants in the state. 

Recipients were chosen through an independent firm, which fielded 41 applications before settling on the final 16. 

Recreational cannabis was legalized in Connecticut on July 1st, 2021. The state received more than 37,000 general license applications. Only 56 total cannabis industry licenses were available. 

Connecticut isn’t the only state committed to furthering social equity in cannabis, but activists are hoping this program looks different than California’s. 

As of February 2020, only 6 of 200 licensed Los Angeles dispensaries are Black-owned. 

The Social Equity Council was developed to “make sure the adult-use cannabis program is grown equitably and ensures that funds from the adult-use cannabis program are brought back to the communities hit hardest by the “war on drugs.” 

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s exciting to see the CT social applicants chosen. 

But, these social equity programs leave much to be desired and I hope the story isn’t the same in Connecticut. 

A 2021 report highlighting California’s industry found that 90% of Oakland respondents say lack of capital is a major problem plaguing their business.

Connecticut’s social equity applicants still have to pay a $3 million fee and pass a background check before obtaining a license. In my opinion, a $3 million fee isn’t accessible, no matter how hard it’s justified. 

State governments have a transparency problem when it comes to money. It’s hard to determine exactly where the social equity dollars are going because states aren’t required to report it. There’s also no federal database because cannabis is federally illegal. 

I hope we see something meaningful out of Connecticut in the social equity arena, especially when applicants are paying $3 million in licensing fees alone. 

California might standardize testing

I’ll never forget when I learned about “lab shopping” very early in my cannabis career. 

It was actually from a hemp operator and to be honest with you: I thought he was full of it. I think he was full of it in other areas, so I naturally assumed he was here, too. 

But, lab shopping is very real. If operators don’t like a result, usually the THC percentage result, they can go somewhere else and obtain a more favorable one. 

Oregon’s THC scores for flower peaked at an unbelievable (literally) 40% in 2019 after the Oregon Health Authority conducted an audit and found “Oregon’s marijuana testing program cannot ensure that test results are reliable and products are safe.” 

There have been whispers (and sometimes proof) of lab shopping in every legal state, but California is hoping to do something about it. 

State regulators are considering standardizing cannabis lab testing methods across California. The Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) is currently accepting comments from the public on the proposals. 

“Individual, licensed laboratories use different methods which may produce inconsistent results and inaccurate data on cannabis cannabinoid content. DCC is working to change that so there is greater integrity in the market, accurate information for consumers, and confidence among stakeholders,” said DCC Director, Nicole Elliot, in a statement. 

Last year, California lawmakers passed SB 544, which requires the DCC to pass standardized cannabinoid testing for California laboratories by January 1st, 2023. 

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

California is, seemingly, chipping away at improving the legal cannabis industry. 

California is undoubtedly one of the most chaotic legal markets in the United States. Asinine tax rates, a flourishing illicit market, and half the state opting out of cannabis businesses make up the state’s volatile industry. 

Those are just a few of the reasons why the California cannabis industry begged state lawmakers for help in December last year. 

“It is critical to recognize that an unwillingness to effectively legislate, implement, and oversee a functional regulated cannabis industry has brought us to our knees,” the letter from cannabis operators reads. “The California cannabis system is a nation-wide mockery; a public policy lesson in what not to do.” 

A few weeks ago, California removed the cultivation tax from producers, which puts cash back in the pockets of cannabis businesses. Now, regulators want consistency and transparency in the labs. 

If this passes, I think we can consider California’s industry to be improving rather than suffering with no hope. Lawmakers might finally be listening to the state’s industry operators who are screaming for help. 

Public libraries deserve cannabis tax revenue​

In Sunday’s newsletter, I talked about the cost-saving advantages of cannabis legalization in the healthcare industry. I also touched on the economic benefits legalization brings to local communities in general. 

Cannabis tax revenue is distributed directly to the local community. Colorado’s public school system has received millions of dollars in revenue since recreational cannabis was legalized several years ago. 

In short: I’m a firm believer in the economic benefits of cannabis legalization, not just the medicinal benefits. 

And I’m not alone. The EveryLibrary Institute published a paper arguing public libraries should seek out funding opportunities from legal states. 

“Cannabis taxes are a huge potential source of funding that libraries should not be left out of,” the white paper reads. Libraries in states with current recreational cannabis should be actively working with state legislatures to allocate funding from tax revenue. In states that have not yet legalized recreational cannabis, libraries have an opportunity to anticipate and influence the future allocation of tax revenue.” 

The paper calls attention to how many legalization laws support direct funding to drug prevention programs and highlights how libraries “can also contribute resources to these kinds of initiatives, especially in communities that have been greatly impacted by the opioid epidemic and the War on Drugs.” 

What I’m Thinking 🧠 

I’m in full support of this initiative and wonder why this hasn’t been talked about more often.

The vast majority of public library funding comes from local sources. State and federal dollars usually make up the smallest portion of public library funding. 

It’s no secret that public libraries are a place of public service. 

Unhoused citizens, those in crisis, and people with addiction all turn to public libraries for a safe place to go during the day. That’s why the Ilsley Public Library’s employees recently completed a training program teaching them how to administer Narcan. 

Additionally, libraries can be used as a resource to educate the public about cannabis, so this is an initiative I wholeheartedly support.