Connecticut State Licensing: Cultivating an Industry in the Land of Steady Habits
Please join us for an informative conversation between two seasoned cannabis attorneys and a successful cannabis business licensee and consultant as they provide an overview of Connecticut’s adult-use legalization history and current cannabis laws and regulations, explain how the State’s cannabis licensing program and lottery system works, and discuss the goals and challenges of the State’s Social Equity initiatives.
Amanda Rositano has been pioneering east coast cannabis for over a decade. She is the founder and CEO of Soulstar, a female-led cannabis company building a portfolio of diverse and high performing businesses in emerging adult use markets, and a partner at Seven Stars Consulting.
Soulstar has secured one of the only 16 social equity DIA cultivator licenses to launch Connecticut’s recreational market. Soulstar has also secured a retail dispensary license to launch its first store in Northern NJ in early 2023.
Amanda is the former president of NETA, where she was a key member of the start-up team that successfully launched one of the first vertically-integrated cannabis businesses in MA and transacted the first legal sale east of the Mississippi. Under Amanda’s leadership, NETA’s stores became two of the highest grossing cannabis dispensaries in the US, and NETA was acquired by Surterra Wellness in 2019 in one of the largest private acquisitions of a cannabis company at the time.
Amanda’s work toward safe, legal access and a healthy, diverse, and vibrant cannabis industry began during her time working in the MA legislature, where she advocated for medical marijuana laws and helped to shape state regulations for broad patient access under the newly formed MA medical marijuana program.
Amanda helped to launch and later served on the board of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association (“CDA”) in Massachusetts, where she played a key role in shaping and influencing regulatory policies and program improvements to the benefit of consumers, communities, and cannabis businesses. Amanda is currently serving a second term as an appointee to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission’s Cannabis Advisory Board (“CAB”) and was a leading voice in the Commission's move to create licensing exclusivity periods for social equity and economic empowerment cannabis business applicants.
Amanda is committed to promoting and supporting diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, especially in the cannabis industry. Amanda was part of the founding membership team that launched Mass CultivatED, a public-private nonprofit partnership heralded as the country’s first “jails to jobs” cannabis program and serves as a volunteer with a year-long mentorship and entrepreneurship accelerator program called Entrepreneurship for All, EforAll. In New Jersey, Amanda and the Seven Stars team offered pro-bono services to lead the successful application of one of the state’s first licensees, Siembra, a female-and minority-owned micro-cultivator.
Michelle Bodian serves as counsel in Vicente Sederberg’s Boston and New York offices, where she is co-chair of the firm’s Hemp and Cannabinoids Department and Grants and Loans practice group. In addition, Michelle leads the firm’s Environment, Health & Safety practice group and is a leading member of the firm’s cannabis licensing and regulatory compliance efforts in Connecticut and New York.
She advises hemp and CBD clients on how to navigate through the complex and interconnected federal, state, and local regulatory frameworks. In addition, she counsels tri-state (Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey) clients on all aspects of cannabis licensing and regulatory matters. Her clients include existing medical operators throughout the tri-state, as well as businesses and individuals seeking new adult-use, medical, and cannabinoid hemp licenses.
Michelle also advises cannabis and hemp clients on environmental, health and safety federal and state laws through identification, prevention, mitigation, and resolution of relevant issues.
Before joining Vicente Sederberg, Michelle served as the land use counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and before that was an associate at an environmental and real estate law firm in Milford, Connecticut.
In 2022, Michelle was recognized as one of Boston's top lawyers by Boston magazine. She is a member of the American Herbal Products Association Cannabis Committee and has spoken at many cannabis industry events. Michelle is often quoted in media publications related to the tri-state markets and has authored several articles on cannabis, hemp- and CBD-related topics.
She received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law with an Environmental Law, Science, and Policy Certificate and received her Bachelor of Arts from Brandeis University. During law school, Michelle served as a legal intern for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in the Environmental Protection Division.
Fatima Afia is a cannabis attorney and civil litigator at Rudick Law Group, PLLC, with a background in commercial and business litigation, land use and landmarks law matters, and disability insurance law. As a litigator, Fatima was an instrumental member of the litigation team behind Washington v. Barr, a pro-bono lawsuit brought against the federal government that sought to declare the federal law criminalizing cannabis unconstitutional. As part of her work in Washington v. Barr, Fatima led the effort in securing overwhelming amicus support before the U.S. Supreme Court from seven members of Congress, 19 disparate and highly regarded organizations, and two eminent cannabis researchers and scientists. In connection with her disability insurance work, she has helped secure and maintain disability benefits for clients from some of the largest disability insurance companies in the United States, playing a vital role in the firm's successful administrative appeal against Unum Insurance Company which resulted in an award of approximately $1 million in retroactive benefits for the client.
As a cannabis attorney, Fatima assists cannabis clients navigate the legal cannabis and hemp industry in the areas of corporate law and regulatory compliance, business transactions, litigation, and state licensing applications in various jurisdictions including New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Fatima is also a social equity advocate, providing instrumental testimony to the Cannabis Control Commission in Massachusetts in 2019 which resulted in an expedited license application-review process for women-and-minority-owned businesses that were unfairly excluded from the regulatory definition of a social equity applicant. Fatima is also an article contributor for Marijuana Venture, has regularly organized and chaired CLE panels and events for the International Cannabis Bar Association (“INCBA”), and is the Co-Chair of INCBA’s CLE Committee. She was the Moot Court Winner at the Medical Cannabis Conference held at Columbia University in 2019, and in 2021 was named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine.
Fatima attended Brooklyn Law School where she graduated in the top 20% percent of her graduating class.