New group aims to help Black, Hispanic business owners get marijuana licenses

The state will soon begin handing out licenses for new marijuana businesses and one group wants to make sure Black and Hispanic owners are not left behind.
The Alliance for Cannabis Equity aims to keep cannabis local and help inner-city applicants compete. It's a partnership between Connecticut Community Outreach Revitalization Program and the Bridgeport-based workforce development agency WorkPlace.
"We hope to ensure that those impacted by the previous stigma can reap the benefits of these opportunities," said Mercy Quaye of the Narrative Project, which is also part of the new Alliance.
Under Connecticut cannabis legalization law, "social equity" applicants will get priority for cannabis licenses. Those include people from neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by marijuana arrests in the past.
Andrea Comer heads the state Social Equity Council, the group that will set the rules for priority applicants. They want applicants to prove they're not a front for big money.
Comer said the council will want to see "things like business agreements, articles of incorporation. If it is a stock type of company, who owns the stock."
But will it be enough? A Chicago firm just paid $113 million for a medical dispensary in Meriden.
"The licenses that will be granted in a lottery process are extremely valuable," said Dr. Fred McKinney, of BJM Solutions, also partnering in the new effort.
The state will hand out cannabis licenses by lottery. Comer said applications could be open by March.