It’s been a minute since we reported on the push for recreational Connecticut cannabis. The state legalized recreational use in the summer of 2021, and the first round of adult-use license applications opened this February. What’s happened since? When can people buy weed in Connecticut?
We don’t have an answer yet. Unlike Rhode Island, which included a date for retail to begin when it legalized recreational cannabis last week, Connecticut does not have a set date for kickoff. It has a lot of work to do first.
The race for retail licenses
The people of Connecticut want cannabis licenses, but most applicants are going to come up empty-handed. The state opened its first adult-use license application period for the chance to win one of twelve retail licenses in February. Since then, at least 8,357 applications have been submitted for a chance at one of the six available social equity licenses. On the general lottery side, the state received at least 7,245 license applications for the remaining six licenses. This application period has since ended.
The state has collectively received more than 15,000 applications for twelve licenses and there is no limit on the number of applications an entity can submit. Many of the current applications are likely from the same entities looking to boost their chance at receiving a Connecticut cannabis license because they can afford to do so. The rules prohibit more than two licenses being awarded to any one applicant, however. Sorry, if you buy your way into being selected for a license, you can’t have them all.
Prohibitive fees for current operators to transition to adult-use
Though existing medical cultivators and retailers have the opportunity to convert into the first adult-use retailers, few have applied for a hybrid license. The reason? The cost of converting is prohibitive for many businesses. Medical retailers must pay a $1 million fee to convert into a hybrid model, and producers a whopping $3 million. A discounted rate for operators forming a 50/50 “equity joint venture” partnership is available so long as the other person or business in the partnership meets specific income or residency requirements. Those in Equity Joint Ventures will not be subject to the lottery for licenses, but must be approved by the Social Equity Council.
It’s not just the fees that are causing slowdowns. Retail sales can’t begin until the state has reached an aggregate of 250,000 square feet of grow and manufacture space specifically for the adult-use market.
Officials think that this can be reached by the end of 2022 or early 2023, but we just don’t know for sure yet.
New Connecticut cannabis laws
The waiting is the hardest part for cannabis-hungry people in the state. Naturally, residents began figuring out ways to legally sell and obtain cannabis while waiting on dispensary doors to open. They landed on the gifting loophole – a common tactic for in-limbo states waiting to begin sales.
In an April House debate, Rep. Mike D’Agostino said, “It’s where people go in, they pay a cover charge or they can buy a t-shirt and get an ounce of cannabis. It’s a barter system, a barter exchange marketplace that’s set up and it’s caused by a loophole in our laws that allows the gifting of cannabis.”
As of May 2022, Governor Lamont signed new rules to curtail this behavior. Offering small items in exchange for a cannabis “gift” can now lead to a $1,000 fine. Generous hearts don’t need to worry, though. The new policy drew plenty of criticism and is crafted so that it won’t prohibit residents from actually giving cannabis to friends and family.
Governor Lamont also signed a bill regulating cannabis advertising in Connecticut. Ads within 1,500 yards of schools and churches are prohibited, as well as billboard advertisements by companies not licensed in the state. Advertisements cannot feature the demoralizing plant, nor can illuminated billboard ads display between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. in an attempt to limit exposure to children. If your kid is out and about between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., shield their eyes.
Things are moving in the Nutmeg State, albeit slowly. As the government’s cannabis website explains, “The supply chain must be entirely licensed before sales can begin, including stores, testing labs, and growers, and there must be enough growing capacity to supply the retail market.” We’ll keep you posted on the latest Connecticut updates as they come.