Connecticut’s adult use cannabis retail applications opened on Thursday. A total of 12 licenses will be awarded, with half allocated for equity applicants.
These licenses will be selected by lottery and the window will be open for three months. Non-lottery applications, which have no closing window for applicants, also opened for cultivators located in specifically-designated “Disproportionately Impacted Area (DIA)” and Equity Joint Ventures. Non-lottery applications are also now open for conversion businesses, including medical cannabis producers who want to expand to adult use, as well as medical cannabis retailers who seek to be hybrid retailers.
Additional three-month application windows will open for the following license types on the below schedule:
Micro-cultivator: February 10
Delivery Service: February 17
Hybrid Retailer: February 24
Food and Beverage: March 3
Product Manufacturer: March 10
Product Packager: March 17
Transporter: March 24
State regulators have fielded “a lot of interest in the retailer licenses” over the past few months, Kaitlyn Krasselt, spokesperson for the Department of Consumer Protection, told Cannabis Wire. They’ve also received inquiries about cultivation license types, as well as the other license types like delivery and food and beverage, which have lower startup costs, she said.
Connecticut lawmakers legalized cannabis last summer after fits and starts, both from the legislature and from Gov. Ned Lamont. There was intense negotiations over specific issues related to equity qualifications. Ultimately, Senate Bill 1201 was the legislation that Lamont signed.
“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” Lamont said, announcing his signature of the bill.
Connecticut House Majority Leader Jason Rojas spoke on a New York State Bar Association panel last week about what was necessary to get legalization across the finish line in Connecticut, which was equity.
“I think people were at different interpretations of what equity means,” Rojas said, adding that he’s optimistic about where the state’s equity provisions ultimately landed as negotiations progressed. “We know it’s been a challenge for all states who move forward with legalization to actually see the kind of outcomes around equity that I think everybody desires to see.”
The state created the Social Equity Council, which is located within the Department of Economic and Community Development, to be “very intentional about ensuring that when we stand up this marketplace, that there are opportunities for a broad spectrum of individuals, particularly those who have been impacted by the war on drugs, either directly or indirectly, to participate in this new marketplace so that it doesn’t get overwhelmed by a lot of larger corporate well-capitalized interests that will have a role in this marketplace, too,” Rojas said.
Connecticut’s launch of its adult use cannabis industry comes as many states on the eastern corridor of the United States are building the blocks necessary for their own programs. New Jersey regulators have adopted interim adult use rules while New York regulators are eyeing a spring release of draft rules. Meanwhile, Virginia lawmakers are considering fast-tracking sales.
That context is important because when Lamont was first making his first big public push on legalization, he did so by locking arms with former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Lamont attended Cuomo’s Regional Cannabis Regulation and Vaping Summit, during which governors in the northeast and other elected officials and regulators puzzled and debated about how northeastern states could take a “regional approach” to legalization. And, in 2019, Lamont referenced a fishing trip that he took with Cuomo to discuss policy areas where states could coordinate, from cyber security to cannabis.
It appears that regulators are trying to continue that regional approach as Connecticut’s cannabis industry unfurls.
“We are always talking to our counterparts in other states – particularly our neighbors like Massachusetts – about best practices, including what they have learned through the launch and regulation of this industry in their own states, and members of our team participate in regular meetings of the Cannabis Regulators Association,” Commissioner Michelle Seagull told Cannabis Wire. “We have a shared priority of opening up a safe and well-regulated marketplace that advances social equity goals.”