Venture of Former State Senator, Husband of Stamford Mayor, on Track to Win Marijuana Equity License


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STAMFORD – Art Linares, the husband of Mayor Caroline Simmons, is a backer in a company that may be on track to obtain a marijuana grower’s license, state business records show.

Linares, a former Republican state senator, is listed as a principal and manager in Linares Faye LLC, a company associated with Connecticut Social Equity LLC, one of the applicants chosen by the state to advance to the next step toward licensure as a marijuana cultivator.

Linares, who was the youngest person ever elected to the State Senate in 2012, and Simmons, a one-time Democratic state representative from Stamford, married in 2017.

Competition has been fierce for marijuana licenses – cultivator, retailer, manufacturer, delivery service and others – as the state expands the market from medical to recreational use.

The Department of Consumer Protection this week announced that it had advanced 16 of 41 applications for a cultivator’s license, qualifying under the state’s social equity guidelines. 

Linares’ Connecticut Social Equity LLC was one.

The company is part of a complex partnership, according to the state business registry.

It shows that a similarly named company, Connecticut Social Equity Holdings LLC, is a principal in Connecticut Social Equity LLC.

The holding company, in turn, has two principals – Linares Faye LLC and Van Scoy LLC.

Linares Faye LLC has three principals. One is Art Linares, listed under the address of the $2.3 million home he and Simmons bought in Stamford’s waterfront Shippan neighborhood in February. 

Another principal in Linares Faye LLC is Brian Faye of Southington. The third is Luis Arturo Linares of Essex.

With retail sales of recreational marijuana set to begin at the end of the year, state lawmakers have enacted regulations designed to offer business opportunities to people who were disproportionately affected by the fifty-year-old War on Drugs.

The purpose of the “social equity” regulations is to help people in those communities get fair access to what is expected to become a lucrative marijuana industry in Connecticut.

The state identified the communities, called disproportionately impacted areas, based on historic drug-related conviction rates and unemployment rates. Most of the areas are in or near urban centers.

To meet the social equity criteria, an applicant must have lived in a disproportionately impacted area for at least five of the 10 years immediately before applying for the license, or nine years before age 18, said Kristina Diamond, communications manager for the Connecticut Social Equity Council. 

The applicant must have an average household income of less than 300 percent of the state median income for the three tax years immediately before the application, Diamond said. 

The social equity applicant can have financial backers, but must own and control at least 65 percent interest in the marijuana business, Diamond said.

Backers don’t have to meet the social equity criteria – they just can’t own or control more than 35 percent of the business, according to the regulations.

In the Connecticut Social Equity Holdings LLC proposal, Van Scoy LLC is the social equity partner. According to the state business registry, the principal in that company is Steven Van Scoy of East Haven.

A phone message left for Van Scoy Friday was not returned, but Faye, who like Linares is a principal and manager of Linares Faye, said Van Scoy plays that role in their marijuana business venture.

Faye, owner of New England Home Mortgage in Southington, said he is one of the backers.

He and Art Linares are good friends, Faye said.

“We’ve talked about opening a cannabis company,” he said.

Linares responded through an email from a spokeswoman, Carter Johnson.

According to the email provided by Johnson, Van Scoy is president of Connecticut Social Equity LLC and owns and controls 65 percent of it, as required by law.

Linares “is a backer of the company which, as defined in the state law, means he indirectly owns more than 5 percent of the business. Art and two other partners make up the remaining 35 percent ownership,” the email reads. 

Van Scoy has lived for five of the last 10 years in a disproportionately impacted area of Connecticut, and his residency and income qualify him as an eligible social equity participant, which the Social Equity Council has verified, the email states.  

If granted a license, Connecticut Social Equity LLC will put its marijuana cultivation business in an area of disproportionate impact, as required by law, according to the emailed response from Linares. The business will not be in Stamford, where his wife is mayor, it says.

Department of Consumer Protection Deputy Commissioner Andréa Comer, who chairs the Social Equity Council, said in an email that the license applications are diligently reviewed by a company, CohnReznick, hired “to ensure that the ownership structure of the businesses” that apply for licenses adhere “to the social equity goals the governor and legislature envisioned.”

The company’s diligence “is reflected in the proportion of approved applicants comparative to those denied,” Comer said. “Our goal has been, and continues to be, to protect applicants from predatory structures and affirm the impact of the war on drugs.”

The 16 applicants that won preliminary approval now must go through background checks. Provisional licenses will be granted once the checks are complete and applicants pay their fees. After that, they can begin to set up their businesses and apply for a final license.

Angela Carella

For 36 years prior to joining the Connecticut Examiner, Angela Carella was a beat reporter, investigative reporter, editor and columnist for the Stamford Advocate. Carella reports on Stamford and Fairfield County. T: 203 722 6811.