The first retail sale at Zen Leaf Dispensary in Meriden was by a Bridgeport resident, Darren, who was celebrating his birthday Tuesday and purchased edibles to hopefully alleviate leg pain. Darren declined to provide his last name. Tony Spinelli / Connecticut Public

Connecticut’s first retail recreational marijuana sales began Tuesday as stores opened their doors to eager customers.

Erick Wichert was the first in line at Fine Fettle in Newington.

“Maybe my enthusiasm was more than anyone else’s,” he said.

Wichert said he drove about 20 minutes from Plainville.

“It’s finally a regulated product. You don’t have to worry about what might be in it, like if you bought it off the street,” Wichert said. “It might be more expensive, but it’s worth it.”

Nine medical marijuana operators in Connecticut successfully completed the steps needed to expand their businesses to include the new market for adults 21 and over, and seven were open Tuesday for adult-use customers.

At Fine Fettle in Newington, dozens of people lined up by the time adult-use sales began at 10 a.m.

At least 600 adult-use customers placed pre-orders for Tuesday alone, said Dennis So, the store’s general manager. A pharmacist by trade, So said he’s most passionate about serving the patients who weren’t able to get a medical card because their condition didn’t qualify.

“The fact that those folks can come in here and still purchase cannabis and use it for medicine, I think it’s an incredible time in history for us to be able to do that in Connecticut,” So said.

As part of legalizing recreational sales, the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont said nearly 44,000 low-level marijuana convictions will be fully or partially erased thanks to Connecticut’s new “clean slate” law.

“Today marks a turning point in the injustices caused by the war on drugs, most notably now that there is a legal alternative to the dangerous, unregulated, underground market for cannabis sales,” Lamont said in a statement.

Now that sales in Connecticut are beginning, officials urged businesses and consumers to be responsible.

“It’s meant for adults,” said Michelle Seagull, commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection. “You always have that risk, or concern, that people won’t take the responsibilities as seriously as they need to and the product will get into the wrong hands.”

New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson said Monday that providing cannabis to minors is illegal and can result in a felony endangerment charge.

He also said products must remain unopened while in the car.

“One of the illegal things is obviously driving under the influence,” he said. “But it’s also illegal for both passengers and drivers to use cannabis while the vehicle is operating.”

This story was originally published Jan. 11, 2023, by Connecticut Public.