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June 10, 2024

Lamont orders examination of CT’s cannabis council

YEHYUN KIM / CTMIRROR.ORG A Hartford resident holds a flag with marijuana leaves during a push to legalize marijuana in Connecticut in 2021.

The public agency responsible for ensuring that Connecticut’s cannabis industry benefits residents harmed by the war on drugs is the subject of an unusual top-to-bottom examination ordered by Gov. Ned Lamont.

The Social Equity Council’s choices for the recipients of community grants financed by cannabis fees have been challenged by the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. The council faced a deadline of Friday to produce financial documents to the office of the state Comptroller.

Comptroller Sean Scanlon said the council has responded to the demand he made for documents on May 31, the same day Lamont asked Scanlan’s office to use its audit expertise. Scanlon said further comment was inappropriate while the inquiry is underway.

“Several stakeholders, including social equity applications and legislators, have voiced concerns regarding the financial management and decision-making processes of the programs and initiatives under the purview of the SEC,” Lamont said in a letter to Scanlon.

The governor’s letter came 10 days after the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus asked the Social Equity Council to suspend its plans for allocating $33.4 million of its funds allocated for community reinvestment.

Lamont asked for “a comprehensive review of the SEC, focusing on areas such as governance practices, decision-making processes, financial management, program effectiveness, criteria used in awarding grants and contracts, stakeholder engagement, and adherence to relevant statutes and regulations.”

The council has two significant functions: distributing millions of dollars in grants, and reviewing social equity plans that cannabis producers and vendors must produce to be licensed. Without an approved plan, a license cannot be obtained.

Industry sources say the council’s criteria for approving plans has been unclear.

Ginnie-Rae Clay, the executive director of the Social Equity Council, did not respond to requests for comment.

Scanlon notified her a week ago that his office’s Division of Budget and Financial Analysis was reviewing the council’s operations.

In a letter to Clay, he demanded:

  • The council’s policies and procedures;
  • The council’s organizational chart;
  • A detailed general ledger report from 7/1/2021 through 5/30/2024;
  • A detailed check/disbursement register report from 7/1/2021 through 5/30/2024;
  • A detailed accounts payable report/sub-ledger from 7/1/2021 through 5/30/2024;
  • A vendor detail report (including, but not limited to, vendor names, addresses, date of creation, and payment information (i.e., bank account, PO box, etc.); and
  • A listing of current employees and their contact information.

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