From left, Carlton Highsmith of Conn Corp, Joe Carbone of the Workplace, and Fred McKinney from BJM Solutions. Credit: Submitted / The Workplace

There is a new coalition in Connecticut that seeks to promote social equity in cannabis, but first the group needs to figure out exactly how to help communities of color access the emerging market.

The Connecticut Community Outreach Revitalization Program (ConnCorp.) and The Workplace announced last week that they had joined forces to create the Alliance for Cannabis Equity. The alliance will ostensibly assist workers from communities of color access the new market, but their first step will be to assess the needs of the community.

“I think the immediate need we have is to help people understand how good this could be for people,” said Joe Carbone, president and CEO of The Workplace. “I see enormous opportunity on the employment side. They’re basically middle-class incomes in these jobs.”

Carbone also said that it would be important to work with big investors to buy into the goals of social equity.

“You really need to have these consortiums where larger investors can include people of color to get a piece of the action,” he said.

The Workplace specializes in employee training and has been in operation in Connecticut for 20 years. Despite the experience, cannabis provides an entirely new horizon for their services.

“We’ve never had it in our state before. We have no structure for this yet,” said Carbone. “It means we have to look at things for a longer period of time.”

As part of that effort the alliance is working with a consultant to develop a “manifesto.” This manifesto is being developed by BJM Solutions, with whom the group consulted.

“The Manifesto’s goal is to help make the Connecticut Social Equity Council’s intention a reality, said BJM Solutions founder Fred McKinneyin a released statement. “We know from the experiences of other states that legalized recreational use and addressed equity in their laws that the gap between law and practice can be significant. We want to learn from the successes and failures of other states and from the unique conditions of this industry and the law in Connecticut.”

Asked for more information about how the alliance will help equity, a spokesperson from ConnCorp told Grown In that they had no more information about the alliance available other than what was in the press release announcing its formation.

“I’m very curious to see exactly what kind of support they plan to provide for folks, because of the way that the equity program is structured in Connecticut.” said Jason Ortiz, of Cure-CT. “You don’t need a lot of help before you actually start to get your license. So I’m wondering if they would only help folks after the lottery.”

Connecticut will hold a licensing lottery for social equity applicants 30 days after its Social Equity Council approves its final set of rules for the process. This could happen as soon as the Council’s Dec. 7 meeting, according to a spokesperson from the state Department of Consumer Protection.

Ortiz was cautiously optimistic about new organizations getting involved in the impending cannabis market in the state.

“I think whenever folks think about the cannabis industry, everybody has dollar signs in their eyes with no details about how it happens,” he said. “I hope these entities that are popping up are really going to be able to provide real tailored services. But in my experience, the number of folks that can do that is tiny.”

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...