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Social equity workshops planned for adult-use recreational marijuana licenses

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Social equity applicants can soon attend workshops to learn more about getting involved with Delaware’s adult-use recreational marijuana industry. l PHOTO COURTESY OF MANISH PANGHAL/UNSPLASH

DOVER — As Delaware prepares to regulate its recreational marijuana industry, creating a socially equitable path forward has become a priority.

“We’re using a broader net to ensure we increase access to a brighter future. Social equity is woven through the entire thing,” Rob Coupe, Delaware’s first marijuana commissioner, told the Delaware Business Times about the new industry.

The Delaware Marijuana Control Act, signed into law last year, required the newly formed Office of the Marijuana Commissioner (OMC) to not only create regulations for the industry that will host the state’s first sales tax, but to also issue licenses to applicants who may have been dealt a more inequitable hand than others.

Applicants who seek out and qualify for a social equity license can apply with the help of reduced application fees. Once awarded a license, social equity licensees will also receive additional business support to help boost their possible success.

“We’re looking at disproportionately impacted areas that have had a disproportionate number of marijuana arrests or convictions in the past, people with previous marijuana conviction histories, or even people who had a parent or immediate family member with that kind of background,” Couple told DBT. “Other states with similar programs have proven that businesses run by social equity licensees can be just as successful as others. They just need to be given the chance to succeed.”

By the numbers, the OMC is required by law to award 125 licenses in total via lottery system, including licenses for retailers, cultivators, manufacturers and testing labs. Of those to be awarded, 47 must be awarded to social equity applicants. Collectively, Coupe expects the new industry to bring in an estimated $42 million in sales tax revenue for the state of Delaware.

Professionals interested in applying for Delaware’s social equity licenses must meet at least one of the following criteria, according to the OMC:

  • The applicant resided for at least five of the preceding 15 years in a disproportionately impacted area. A map of the affected areas is currently being developed by the OMC,
  • The applicant was convicted of or was an adjudicated delinquent of a marijuana-related offense under Delaware law prior to April 23, 2023, with the exception of delivery to a minor, or any offense involving a Tier 3 quantity of marijuana, or
  • The applicant had a parent, legal guardian, child, spouse or dependent who was convicted of or was an adjudicated delinquent for a marijuana-related offense.

“We can’t go back and right the wrong, so to speak. But we can make it better moving forward for those who want to participate and not only better, but easier,” Coupe told DBT.

For professionals like Matha Figaro, founder of ButACake, opportunities like those presented through Delaware’s social equity licenses for its adult-use recreational marijuana industry are critical for many new business owners.

Figaro is a New Jersey native and legacy business owner, meaning she operated in the marijuana market during its prohibition and now runs a legal business thanks, in part, to new laws. While perfecting her edibles, or baked goods infused with cannabis, and before New Jersey laws allowed her to do so legally, she employed seven people through her business.

“We were paying people’s rent, we were doing everything a normal business would have done. It was just that the federal government and New Jersey were slower to get with the times,” Figaro told DBT.

New marijuana laws and an end to its prohibition has opened doors to her business she never knew were possible, she added.

“There are people who buy our products who never even imagined purchasing cannabis [marijuana] products. This has affected my business positively with a larger reach,” she told DBT.

Figaro’s business also expanded into Delaware when Columbia Care offered use of its kitchens to ButACake so Figaro and her partner Yasmin could handcraft organic medical marijuana edibles in Delaware – edibles still cannot be transported across the state line. Their products are now available in all three Columbia Care locations in the First State.

“Columbia Care was the only company that said absolutely yes. This was good for us because Delaware had more favorable regulations for [medical] edible products,” Figaro told DBT.

Although she said ButACake isn’t ready to publicly state whether or not they will try for an adult-use recreational marijuana license, she acknowledged Delaware is on a healthy path forward for all.

“I think that when we put social equity into a box, some people get left behind. By the time I was able to go for it, I was overlooked for the social equity license in New Jersey because I chose to live in a safer environment and I don’t think that’s right. But I think Delaware’s doing a successful approach with a different point of view. If a few less people get left behind, that’s a good thing,” she said.

Delaware-based applicants that meet the requirements to apply for social equity licenses are invited to attend one of the OMC’s upcoming workshops which will include information on the application process and eligibility, as well as topics led by professionals in banking, taxes, legal matters, real estate and more, according to the OMC.

Workshops will take place from 3-5:30 p.m. with presentations beginning at 4 p.m. on the following dates:

  • June 5 for applicants in New Castle County at Delaware Technical Community College’s Stanton Campus in Newark,
  • June 12 for applicants in Sussex County at Delaware Tech’s Owens Campus in Georgetown,
  • June 18 for applicants in the city of Wilmington at Delaware Tech’s Wilmington Campus, and
  • June 25 for applicants in Kent County at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Richardson & Robbins Building in Dover.

Registration is available online at OMC.Delaware.gov. As of Wednesday, May 1, the OMC also published proposed regulations for the adult-use recreational marijuana industry. Public comments are accepted at OMC@delaware.gov through May 31. 

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