Cannabis in Connecticut is legal for adults 21 years and older. The new law went into effect in July of 2021. Five months later, many questions are circling around the Constitution State. When will dispensaries in Connecticut open? Where can people get weed in the meantime?
The east coast cannabis market exists in many stages. There are states like Massachusetts with booming cannabis markets and then there are others like Vermont, which have legal adult-use cannabis but are waiting on the green light to begin retail sales. The Connecticut cannabis industry falls closer to Vermont’s situation, but with significant distinctions.
Connecticut’s road to legalization
Legal recreational Connecticut cannabis is relatively new. A bill was signed in June of 2021 and made it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis on their person. At home or locked away in their car trunk, Connecticut residents can have up to five ounces of cannabis.
Medical users have had access to cannabis since 2012, when a medical marijuana measure was signed into law. Patients can possess up to a “one-month supply” of cannabis at a time, which is currently set at 3 ounces per month.
The 2021 legalization came after failed efforts to legalize cannabis in Connecticut back in 2019. The efforts were led by Governor Ned Lamont, who proposed a second bill to legalize Connecticut cannabis in 2020 just before COVID-19 shut down the proposal. The third time was the charm, and the state now has legal recreational cannabis. At this time, though, there’s no way to buy it. Sales are limited to medical cardholders only.
When will Connecticut cannabis sales begin?
Sales are set to begin by the end of 2022, though some are pushing for a quicker rollout due to public safety concerns about fentanyl-laced marijuana.
Rumors of fentanyl and other drug-laced illicit market cannabis products have been circulating for years. The recent discovery is the first lab-confirmed case of fentanyl-laced cannabis in Connecticut and doesn’t necessarily reveal a larger problem on its own. Still, the revelation has law enforcement calling for recreational cannabis sales to start sooner in the state.
“Our biggest fear is that this is going to become a trend,” said Plymouth police Capt. Ed Benecchi. “The dispensaries need to be opened as soon as possible to protect the public.”
That said, it’s unlikely that the state will respond to requests to open dispensaries six months ahead of the set timeline.
“The concerns of the Plymouth Police reinforce Governor Lamont’s reasoning for enacting this new law,” a spokesman for the state’s governor said. “It is his priority to ensure that its implementation, which is already on an aggressive schedule, is accomplished with a safe, responsible, and equitable process in place and is not rushed in a way that causes unintended consequences.”
As such, Connecticut recreational dispensaries are expected to begin opening their doors by the end of 2022. And hopes are high, with a projected $70 million in tax revenue collected by 2025.
Connecticut social equity program set to raise the bar
We’ve heard it before. Every time a state rolls out legalization, we hear optimistic projections about how their cannabis industry will be equitable and diverse. And while follow-ups often reflect the opposite, we can’t deny that Connecticut’s social equity plan is promising.
Connecticut has appointed a social equity council with 15 members. Seven are appointed by legislators, four by the governor, and four are ex-officio members. The state’s equity measures target areas with a historical conviction rate for drug-related offenses greater than one-tenth or an unemployment rate greater than 10%.
Connecticut’s comprehensive approach to social equity includes expunging cannabis-related crimes and reserving half of the state’s cannabis licenses for applicants from the target areas mentioned above.
Existing medical dispensaries may take part in adult-use sales if they convert to a “hybrid” dispensary. To do so, they must pay a fee of $1 million and submit a detailed plan on how the shop will prioritize medical needs.
To cut that fee in half, existing dispensaries can create an “equity joint venture” which must be at least 50% owned by a social equity applicant.
Additionally, over half of the state’s revenue from cannabis sales is to be dedicated to a new equity fund that will be invested in areas of disproportionate impact. This includes expunging incarceration records for cannabis-related charges, funding drug abuse rehabilitation efforts, integrating members of affected communities into the workforce, and improving education.
What about home cultivation?
Home cultivation is not permitted at this time, despite the state legalizing cannabis possession without any operational recreational dispensaries.
As of October 1, 2021, medical marijuana patients can cultivate cannabis at home, though. The law permits patients to grow up to three mature and three immature plants at home, capping the household total at 12 plants.
While cultivation is not permitted for the general public now, the state plans to allow home cultivation for all adults 21 and over starting July 2023. When home cultivation for the general public rolls out, it is set to follow the same cultivation rules medical patients follow.
Multi-state companies want a slice of Connecticut cannabis
Given the opportunities the Connecticut cannabis industry is set to provide, it’s no surprise companies from out of state are looking to secure a place in the industry.
Verano Holdings Corp., for example, is active in 12 states and recently signed agreements to acquire two Connecticut cannabis dispensaries and a cultivation center.
In March of 2021, Greenrose Acquisition Corp. reached an agreement to purchase Theraplant, one of the state’s four legal growing facilities.
We can expect to see this trend continuing as more companies fight for a piece of the promising Connecticut cannabis industry.