Adult-use marijuana sales in Connecticut will begin on Jan. 10, 2023.
Nearly 18 months since Gov. Ned Lamont signed the state’s law legalizing recreational pot, officials on Friday gave a required 30-day public notice of the market’s official opening date.
“There was a lot of work that went into being able to make today’s announcement,” Michelle Seagull, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection, told reporters at a Friday morning press conference.
Beginning Jan. 10, nine existing medical marijuana dispensaries that received approval to convert to a “hybrid” retail model — offering both medical and adult-use products — will be able to start selling recreational pot. Depending on local zoning, sales will begin at 10 a.m. or later on that date.
“This is really just the start of a marketplace,” Seagull said.
Sales will continue to expand in the coming months. Seagull said 42 provisional licenses have been granted to various types of marijuana businesses, from cultivators to manufacturers, distributors, retailers and delivery services. In all, nearly 100 businesses “are somewhere in the licensing pipeline,” Seagull said.
Provisional license recipients are now working to get up and running, which includes finding space for their operations and obtaining local zoning approvals, said Andrea Comer, DCP deputy commissioner and chair of the Social Equity Council tasked with evaluating applicants. Those businesses are given 14 months to obtain a final license.
“I anticipate that certainly by the end of the first half of the year, we should be seeing some of those businesses ready to go,” Comer said.
Standing up the new industry, while meeting legislative intentions to make it accessible and equitable for interested entrepreneurs, took months of complex deliberation on the part of the social equity council. And some applicants and members of the public have questioned the fairness of the process, arguing that multi-state cannabis businesses had advantages over local startups.
Existing medical-use cultivators and retailers had to pay steep fees to convert their operations. Those fees went into a fund to be reinvested in communities most impacted by historically discriminatory federal drug policy.
Comer said Friday there’s currently roughly $50 million in that fund, and that’s expected to grow. The council plans to work with the beneficiary communities to evaluate the best ways for those funds to be reinvested, but there’s no timeline yet on when that process will commence.
For those hopeful new entrants to the market who were not converting from medical-use operations, the council held lotteries for licenses in several categories. Prospective growers, product manufacturers, transporters and shops vied for a limited number of licenses; half were designated for “social equity applicants” who have to meet certain income and residency requirements.
Applications had to include various social equity considerations, including the business’s plans for recruiting, retaining and promoting people from disproportionately-impacted areas. “This wasn't just about building a business but also contributing to the investment or reinvestment in those communities,” Comer said.
One final hurdle in opening the adult-use market was meeting the law’s capacity requirement of at least 250,000 square feet of licensed growing and manufacturing space, in order to ensure enough supply for both recreational and medical customers. Seagull said Tuesday that threshold had been met.
Once sales begin, DCP plans to track “how things play out” in the market in case any shortages arise, Seagull said.
“We're going to be constantly evaluating, talking to the businesses and monitoring the situation. Eventually as more growers come on board, more retailers come on board, we expect to hit an equilibrium,” she said.
Each adult-use cannabis transaction will be limited to a quarter-ounce or less — in part to protect the supply for medical patients, who can purchase up to 5 ounces a month for health purposes, Seagull said.