The Business of Cannabis Explores Opportunities and Implications
Connecticut’s legalization of recreational marijuana in June opened a number of conversations, from the implications for employers to new business opportunities across a wide range of industries. The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut hosted “Business Breakfast and Mini Expo: The Business of Cannabis” on September 8 at the Holiday Inn in Norwich.
The panel of experts discussed regulations, rights, and economic development in the cannabis industry: Michelle Seagull, Commissioner, CT Department of Consumer Protections; Kurt Smith, Business Line Manager, Fuss & O’Neill, Inc.; and Kyle Zrenda, Attorney, Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law.
Commissioner Seagull provided an overview of the law and the path to implementation. High level goals as the department drafts regulations for the creation of a well-working marketplace are preserving the medical marketplace, protecting public health and safety, and promoting social equity.
There will nine different license types in a full supply chain model, including designations for dispensaries, manufacturing, packing, delivery, and cultivation, that create new business channels.
A lottery process for licenses has provisions for 50% of those opportunities to go Social Equity candidates, as defined by the statute and governed by a recently formed council. There are opportunities for joint ventures, partnerships, and an accelerator program. There will be opportunities for candidates to tap into business training to support their success.
“It’s about reinvestment in communities completely unrelated to cannabis, but other ways to invest in communities and use the money from cannabis to further those goals,” said Seagull.
The timeline begins with the Social Equity Council creating provisions to meet the goals of the bill followed by the opening of applications for licensure.
Attorney Kyle Zrenda addressed issues impacting employers. For full clarification of your rights, policy implications, and special circumstances as an employer, the Chamber recommends contacting your attorney.
Current law prevents discrimination based on palliative use of marijuana, with the exception of employers for whom it would cause them to violate federal law or lose federal funding.
A significant list of industries and positions can terminate employees for use, including manufacturing, construction, education, healthcare, justice, security, and other areas or positions where safety is a consideration.
Employers can have a written policy specifying termination for cannabis use, but it must meet notification requirements, including specified distribution to employees and presentation to prospective employees.
Importantly, employers are not required to allow use or possession of cannabis at work or on call.
Zrenda advises employers to familiarize themselves with their policies and make appropriate updates before the issue arises.
Kurt Smith, Business Line Manager for Fuss & O’Neill, offered a perspective on the opportunities for area businesses, noting the many small businesses who have been working with dispensaries for years. Meeting business owners and prospective owners at events like this, he suggested, was one of the best ways to discover intersections between small business services and this burgeoning industry.
Read more about the event in local media coverage:
CT Examiner “State Official Suggests Slower Rollout for Marijuana, as Businesses Turn Out for Talk” by Anna Elizabeth
The Day “Business of cannabis breakfast brings out business community” by Sten Spinella
WSHU “Eastern Connecticut Business Group Holds Information Session On Retail Cannabis” by Brian Scott-Smith
The Bulletin “Thinking of getting into Connecticut’s marijuana industry? Norwich forum offers a preview” by Matt Grahn