Connecticut legalized recreational cannabis in 2021, but the state’s deliberate licensing process and careful oversight of local growers expanding their operations meant the first adult-use retailers didn’t open until January of this year.

Since then, the recreational market has brought in nearly $70 million, with sales steadily rising each month.

Several medicinal retailers were approved for hybrid licenses and became the first outlets to sell recreational products. New entrants to the market submitted applications to the state’s Department of Consumer Protection and were selected via lottery last year to apply for a limited number of licenses.

Among those new entrants were seven entrepreneurs who pitched investors on their cannabis startup ideas in a Norwalk hotel on Wednesday.

The presentations, each a tight six minutes in length, were the culmination of a 10-month, $1 million state-sponsored business accelerator program led by cannabis educators from Oaksterdam University and social enterprise trainers with Hartford-based reSET. Thirty entrepreneurs entered the program last fall, and 21 earned their graduation certificates. 

Those selected to present their ideas Wednesday had secured licenses and reached the point where they’re “actively raising capital,” said Sarah Bodley, executive director of reSET.

One of the investors in the room was the state’s Social Equity Council, which recently launched a $10 million loan program for social equity marijuana businesses. Participants in the accelerator program are eligible for a discounted interest rate.

It can take two to three years to get a cannabis business up and running, said Oaksterdam University Executive Chancellor Dale Sky Jones. So offering a 10-month training program and ongoing assistance can help entrepreneurs “take it to the next level,” she said. “It’s been a long haul for the folks that are already doing it successfully.”

Read more: CT cannabis startups make pitch to investors