A marijuana cultivation company with ties to Wallingford attorney and former consumer protection commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr. is on track to receive a state social equity license, as is a separate company with a Southington-based backer.
Neither Wallingford, nor Southington would host those facilities, however.
Among the 16 companies invited to move forward as social equity applicants for adult use cultivation last month was Wallingford-based Quinnipiac Valley Growth Partners registered at 54 North Elm St. Even though parts of Wallingford are designated as Social Equity Areas by the Department of Consumer Protection, Wallingford zoning regulations prohibit all cannabis-related establishments within the city limits.
Farrell is one of the shareholders of the company. The former Wallingford town councilor, state lawmaker and commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection also served as co-chair of the cannabis law section of the Connecticut Bar Association and has run a private practice in liquor licensing law for the past decade.
Farrell said he “put together” a group of seven shareholders to apply for the license. The group includes three social equity applicants who own 65% of the company — one from Meriden and one from Wallingford. The remaining 35% of the company is split between Farrell, another expert, and two local investors who provided the $3 million licensing fee.
“I was able to successfully put the deal together because I have that instinct and background for the law and regulations,” he said in an interview.
If granted, Farrell said the license would give Quinnipiac Valley permission to cultivate a 50,000 square foot growing space in addition to running two dispensaries as “offshoots.”
Farrell said the company is looking to renovate an existing building in an urban area of New Haven County to create several floors with "clean rooms" for cannabis growth.
“We're trying to get to the point of moving into construction quickly, getting the construction completed quickly, and then getting plants into the ground --even though it will be in a warehouse.”
Brian Faye, an owner of New England Home Mortgage, is a backer of Connecticut Social Equity LLC. It’s another one of the 16 companies that met preliminary social equity qualifications for a cannabis cultivator license from DCP.
The licenses include requirements intended to benefit communities and people who have been harmed by cannabis prohibition, according to Gov. Ned Lamont. Only social equity applicants who meet those requirements are being considered to receive cultivator licenses.
Faye didn’t return requests for comment left at his business this week. He’s partners in Connecticut Social Equity LLC with Art Linares, a former Republican state senator and husband of Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons, a Democrat.
Social equity applicants
A Social Equity Council, led by the consumer protection deputy commissioner Andrea Comer, and a consulting firm helped determine which of the 41 companies that applied would get preliminary approval.
They evaluated the companies based on social equity requirements which impact where the facilities can be placed as well as the company’s ownership.
The state’s recent adult-use cannabis law designated certain census tract areas as disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition based on unemployment rates and drug offense conviction numbers. Cannabis cultivation facilities must be located in those areas.
The impacted census tracts are predominately in cities. The central portion of Meriden along Colony Street and North Colony Road is designated as an impacted area, along with a portion of the city’s east along Liberty Street and Gravel Road.
In Wallingford, the corridor west of North and South Colony Road is also a disproportionately impacted area, according to the state.
No portion of Cheshire or Southington is designated as impacted.
In addition to locating a facility in one of those areas, the majority owner of the cannabis cultivation company must live in or have recently lived in such an area as well.
According to the consumer protection department, the social equity applicant must own at least 65% of the company. That person can’t have made more than three times the state’s median income over the past three years.
The social equity applicant also needs to have lived in an impacted area for five of the last 10 years or spent nine years in such an area before turning 18.
Connecticut Social Equity LLC
Carter Johnson, a spokeswoman for Linares, explained the company’s structure and said the social equity applicant is Steve Van Scoy, an East Haven resident. The address listed for him in state records shows that he lives in one of East Haven’s impacted areas.
Johnson said Van Scoy meets the income and residency requirements of a social equity applicant.
Linares lives in Stamford while Faye lives in Southington. Luis Arturo Linares of Essex, Art Linares’ father, is also a member of the company.
While Johnson said the facility wouldn’t be in Stamford or Southington, she didn’t specify where it might be located.
Kaitlyn Krasselt, consumer protection spokeswoman, said that none of the applicant companies have set their locations.
“The applications are still under review by DCP,” she said.
Last year, both Southington and Wallingford prohibited recreational marijuana sales and cultivation shortly after the General Assembly vote in June.
While the state requires that cultivation facilities approved as part of a social equity application be located in a disproportionately impacted area, the consumer protection department also said companies need to get approval from local authorities. The department directed company leaders to contact individual towns or cities to see what if any restrictions were placed on cannabis operations.
In Wallingford, despite having impacted areas, cannabis cultivators won’t be able to start a business due to local restrictions.
The prohibitions in Southington and Wallingford prompted debate last year about the merits of allowing cannabis sales or cultivation in town.
Reporter Jesse Buchanan can be reached at email@example.com.
Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. To learn more about RFA go to www.reportforamerica.org. Guzmán can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lauguzm_n