Can Cannabis Change Connecticut?
After reviewing a story from today's Hartford Courant: “Marijuana Legalization Has Been Approved by Connecticut Lawmakers. Here are 9 Things to Know About the Bill”, I am torn about the news.
On the one hand, Connecticut has become the 18th state that has legalized cannabis for adult-use, and the end of cannabis Prohibition and righting the wrongs of a century of propaganda and racist treatment of black and brown people are one day closer.
As with much that has to do with racial history in Connecticut, what’s deeply concerning is what is NOT highlighted in this news: the high-tech redlining that’s buried in the new law.
Connecticut and I have history. I left for good in 1985, but I grew up in Darien, which had been a sundown town.
Connecticut's racist history is both deep and subtle:.
In the 1920’s Harry Lutterman, the Grand Dragon of the Connecticuts' Ku Klux Klan lived in Darien
As recently as the 1940’s, town ordinances said Jews and Blacks could not own real estate. You don’t believe me? Go see “The Gentlemen’s Agreement” won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1947.
It won’t surprise you that I had never heard of “Juneteenth” or "Tulsa" or "Greenville" until a few years ago
What might surprise you is, these traditions persist today: Here are excerpts from two articles from 2020:
The New Haven Independent says:
“Connecticut is one of the most racially segregated states in the country, both geographically and economically. Unlike most states, property taxes fund almost all our local costs – particularly our schools. … Black residents are overwhelmingly concentrated in our cities, where they pay the highest tax rates and send their children to the lowest-performing schools.”
And from the Middletown Press, “Julie Davis and her husband found what they thought was the perfect getaway: a cute cottage on a lake. The price was right, but when the couple’s lawyer was ready to finalize the deal, he found in the deed: “No portion of this said premises shall be conveyed or leased to any other than the Caucasian Race.”
When I learned that CT Governor Lamont threatened to veto legalization this week over a clause in the Social Equity section, I decided to take a closer look at the “Social Equity” Provisions of the new CT law (the legalese is so dense it’s like playing Double-Dutch with words, so I’m going to paraphrase, then show the text of the actual bill)
In Connecticut, a "Social equity applicant" MUST
Own AND Control 65% of an entity (Any lawyer knows how rare and difficult that is, especially in the cannabis industry)
Have an average household income of less than $78,833
AND… Was a resident of a disproportionately impacted area for not less than five of the last ten years (..."disproportionately impacted area" is defined to mean a census tract with an historical drug-related conviction rate greater than 10%, or (B) more than 10% unemployment.
THE LOOP BACK
Dear readers of the American Cannabis Report will notice NO MENTION of race, gender, or ethnicity in the description of a social equity applicant. This may seem like a clever way to dodge lawsuits from white people who will inevitably feel any POC advantage is wrong wrong wrong, but one wonders how will this law even consider patterns of discrimination that are not just evident in Connecticut's history, they’re legendary? (Even with the newly formed Social Equity Council, which shall be within the Department of Economic and Community Development, with a directive to create programs "... to ensure that individuals from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition and enforcement are provided equal access to licenses for cannabis establishments.")
Connecticut has created a very dystopian version of the “Residency Requirement.” Typically, a Residency Requirement means an owner of a state-legal cannabis business must live in the state – the purpose being to keep the money in the state. But in CT, the residency requirement for social equity is that the person LIVES IN THE HOOD –
high unemployment, and
... And given what is commonly known about Connecticut’s history – exclusion, redlining, isn’t every person of color “disproportionately impacted” by a history of racist activities?
THE LAST WORD:
Connecticut's fancy but insincere attempt at social equity isn't real, it's just another Nutmeg State highly crafted top-down set up for failure.
Text from the Bill referenced by my paraphrasing, so readers can check my analysis:
Section (17) "Disproportionately impacted area" means a United States census tract in the state that has, as determined by the Social Equity Council under section 22 of this act, (A) a historical conviction rate for drug-related offenses greater than one-tenth, or (B) an unemployment rate greater than ten per cent;
Section 26 (d) For purposes of this section, "social equity partner" means a person that is at least sixty-five per cent owned and controlled by an individual or individuals, or such applicant is an individual, who
(1) Had an average household income of less than three hundred percent of the state median household income over the three tax years immediately preceding such individual's application*; and
(2) (A) Was a resident of a disproportionately impacted area for not less than five of the ten years immediately preceding the date of such application;
(B) Was a resident of a disproportionately impacted area for not less than nine years prior to attaining the age of eighteen**
(* Tell me if I'm wrong here: the Connecticut median income is $78,833 . Three-hundred percent of that is 78,833 x 3 = $236,499. Spread that over 3 years, and you divide $236,499 by 3, and get back to $788,833. Right?)
(** This mention of 18-year olds is because in Connecticut, a worker is allowed to work at a cannabis business at age 18 even though he or she is not allowed to consume until age 21. Seems to be a new a twisted form of entrapment....)