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Connecticut's new retail marijuana market off to shaky start after state cannabis chief resignation

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Ebong Udoma
/
WSHU
Andrea Comer, deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, is resigning as the state's cannabis chief to become the new Chief of Staff for incoming State Treasurer Erick Russell.

Connecticut’s cannabis chief, Andrea Comer, is resigning days ahead of the state’s first legal recreational sales, highlighting a possible problem with the new market.

Comer, deputy commissioner in the Department of Consumer Protection, has had a difficult job, said Fred McKinney of BJM Solutions, an expert in business set-asides for minorities. That’s because Comer also chairs the Social Equity Council that's responsible for including people from disadvantaged areas and backgrounds in the new market.

“It is a very difficult thing to try to ensure social equity given the constraints of the law,” said McKinney, since most minorities do not have access to the financing required to compete in selling legal marijuana.

“Commissioner Comer did a phenomenal job," McKinney said. "Her door was always open. She listened. I think a lot. But I think she also realized that this is going to be incredibly frustrating trying to thread this needle.”

Governor Ned Lamont and the state General Assembly might have to consider restructuring the industry next year to better accommodate social equity.

“I think that this is perhaps a good sign to the governor and the Connecticut legislature that we may need to revisit how we structure this industry if we are serious about social equity in the cannabis industry,” McKinney said.

Comer is leaving the state Department of Consumer Protection at the end of the month to become the new Chief of Staff for incoming State Treasurer Erick Russell.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.