Regulated sales of recreational marijuana began in Connecticut on Tuesday, less than two years after the state legalized cannabis for use by adults. Adult-use cannabis is now available at seven shops across the state, all of them existing medical marijuana dispensaries that have been licensed as hybrid retailers to serve recreational customers.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in June 2021, ending the prohibition on possession of cannabis by adults 21 and older and creating a framework for regulated adult-use cannabis sales. The bill also included restorative justice and social equity measures, including provisions that led to the expungement of nearly 43,000 marijuana-related convictions last week. The effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut was led by Democrats including the governor, who argued that regulating cannabis would protect consumers and help communities impacted by the enforcement of punitive drug laws.
“Today marks a turning point in the injustices caused by the war on drugs, most notably now that there is a legal alternative to the dangerous, unregulated, underground market for cannabis sales,” Lamont said in a statement on Tuesday.
Medical marijuana dispensaries in Branford, Meriden, Montville, New Haven, Newington, Stamford, and Willimantic were expected to open their doors to adult-use cannabis stores beginning at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Two more, in Danbury and Torrington, are expected to open soon. Up to 40 additional cannabis retailers are expected to begin operations before the end of the year, according to media reports.
Transitioning To A Regulated Cannabis Economy
Adam Wood, president of the Connecticut Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said that Connecticut’s regulated marijuana industry is expected to create about 10,000 jobs for workers in the state over the next few years. He added that cannabis will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue that will be used to benefit communities harmed by nearly a century of marijuana prohibition.
“Today is historic, but the real story is about the benefits to come that will transform lives and communities,” Wood said in a statement.
Verano Holdings, a multistate cannabis operator with active operations in 13 states, entered the Connecticut medical marijuana market in 2021 with the acquisition of Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions (CT Pharma). The company launched adult-use cannabis sales in the state on Tuesday at its Zen Leaf branded dispensary, formerly Willow Brook Wellness, in the city of Meriden. George Archos, Verano co-founder and CEO, said that the company “is proud to stand alongside Connecticut residents in celebration of the end of cannabis prohibition.”
“Legal cannabis in Connecticut will have a positive impact on the economy and local communities, and we’re honored to celebrate this historic moment in the Constitution State,” Archos wrote in an email to High Times. “We’re grateful for the leadership of Governor Ned Lamont, the Department of Consumer Protection, local communities, our team members, medical cannabis patients and advocates for making this exciting day a reality.”
In addition to the Zen Leaf dispensary in Meriden, Verano’s operations in Connecticut include CT Pharma, a 217,000-square-foot cultivation and processing facility in Rocky Hill, and Caring Nature in Waterbury, a medical dispensary that will soon begin adult-use sales under the Zen Leaf retail brand.
Recreational Weed Purchases Limited To Seven Grams
Sales of recreational marijuana will initially be limited to purchases of up to seven grams (about a quarter of an ounce) of cannabis flower or the equivalent in other products to ensure that retailers have enough merchandise on hand to serve medical marijuana patients. The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection will monitor supplies of cannabis in the state to determine when purchase caps on adult-use cannabis will be lifted.
The Botanist hybrid recreational and medical marijuana retail shop in Montville is operated by New York-based multistate operator Acreage Holdings. Kate Nelson, senior vice president of the company’s Midwest and Northwest regions, said that she expects the dispensary’s previous customer count of 200 to 300 patients per day to increase by about 150% during the first week of adult-use cannabis sales. But after the initial rush of excitement, sales are expected to level off.
“I think even before the 40 operators come online, you’ll start to see less of that excitement of something new and more so of kind of what the status quo will become,” Nelson said. “We’re in an area now in the country where there’s other adult-use states nearby. So it’s really going to be a focus of ours, in the state of Connecticut specifically, to make sure that this adult-use program has the product that it needs to have and we can support the industry … to make sure Connecticut sets themselves apart from other competing markets.”