Connecticut legalized cannabis for adults last year, but it’s still unclear when recreational marijuana will be available to buy without a prescription.
Existing medical growers and retailers could be the first to bring recreational products to market, but only a few have so far applied to convert their operations to a “hybrid” model, producing or selling both medicinal and recreational pot.
By law, the conversion fee is $1 million for retailers and $3 million for producers, which could be prohibitive for many companies. This rate is discounted operators forming 50/50 “equity joint venture” partnerships. with a person or company that meets certain income or residence criteria.
Another potential problem: Retail sales can’t begin until a total of 250,000 square feet of grow and manufacturing space in Connecticut is dedicated to the adult-use market. Officials with the Department of Consumer Protection, which administers the licenses, are working with growers to track the industry’s footprint as many medical growers expand their operations.
Turned on your websiteexplains the department: “The supply chain must be fully licensed before sales can begin, including stores, testing labs and growers, and there must be enough growth capacity to supply the retail market” .
State officials say their goal is to have adult marijuana products available for sale by the end of this year or early next year, but no date has been set.
Hopeful new market entrants, from growers to product manufacturers, carriers, retailers and delivery services, are currently in the midst of a licensing lottery process. There are fewer than 50 available in nine categories, half for “social equity” applicants and half for general applicants. The public will be notified as licenses are granted.
But lottery winners will still have to take on the task of starting a cannabis business. That’s no small feat in a highly regulated industry, especially for fledgling entrepreneurs.
“This is a big cash business,” said Andrea Comer, deputy commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection. “What we don’t want to do is have people set up to fail by saying, ‘OK, do you want a license?’ Here you are.’ And then they’re ill-equipped to build or maintain that business.”
The state’s 15-member Social Equity Council, tasked with promoting diverse participation in the fledgling industry, has been celebrating a series of workshops for people interested in obtaining licenses and starting a cannabis business. The state also plans to provide technical assistance to cannabis entrepreneurs. Earlier this month, the council did just that a request for proposals of “independent organizations and individuals qualified to establish a comprehensive cannabis acceleration program.”
Concerned applicants have raised issues of fairness in the licensing process. Some argue that conversion fees for medical manufacturers and retailers restrict access to large companies that have millions of dollars to spare. Some point out that lotteries favor those who entered multiple times and paid various fees ($500 for general applicants and $250 for social equity companies) to get a head start. (Thousands of applications have been sent to all eight lotteries.)
Comer said incentives were built into the law to favor social equity applicants and equity joint ventures, discounting those applicants’ fees. He added that people shouldn’t overlook other important components of the law, including decriminalizing marijuana and reinvesting in communities hardest hit by discriminatory federal drug policy — the “long game,” as he called it. she
“A portion of the revenue from these license fees will go into a fund that is then reinvested in communities, specifically communities that have been designated as being disproportionately affected by the war on drugs,” Comer said. Communities could use the funds to help entrepreneurs in other sectors, for example, or support workforce development programs, he said.
Since last July, Connecticut adults can legally possess and use up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, and can store up to 5 ounces in a locked container at home.
Until the adult market opens, only patients with medical marijuana and their caregivers can buy marijuana in the state 18 authorized dispensaries. Some regulations on medical cannabis have been expanded since the Adult Use Bill was passed last year. Medical marijuana patients can now purchase up to 3.5 ounces per month from any dispensary; they don’t have to anymore select a designated facility.
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