Labor

Legal recreational marijuana sales starting in Connecticut

MONTVILLE, Conn. (AP) – Connecticut’s first round of retail cannabis sales for adults 21 and older was set to begin Tuesday morning at seven existing medical marijuana establishments across the state, less than two years after Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation making Connecticut the latest state to legalize recreational sales.

As many as 40 dispensaries, along with dozens of other cannabis-related businesses, are expected to eventually open in Connecticut by the end of 2023.

“Today is historic, but the real story is about the benefits to come that will transform lives and communities,” Adam Wood, president of the Connecticut Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. He estimates the new industry will create more than 10,000 jobs over the next couple of years and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue that will help benefit communities most impacted by the war on drugs.

Recreational sales were allowed to begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. State-approved shops in Montville, New Haven, Branford, Newington, Stamford, Willimantic and Meriden were expected to open their doors to the general public on the first day. Two other approved dispensaries, in Danbury and Torrington, will open at a later date.

It’s unclear whether the novelty of legalized marijuana has worn off a bit for Connecticut consumers, considering retail sales began in 2018 in neighboring Massachusetts and last month in neighboring Rhode Island and New York.

Twenty-one states have legalized recreational marijuana for adults over the past decade, even though it remains illegal under federal law. After voters approved legalization in Maryland and Missouri in November, marijuana advocates are now pressing forward with similar efforts elsewhere in the U.S., including in Oklahoma and Ohio.

As of Feb. 3, 2022, 37 states, three territories and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Connecticut’s “hybrid” medical and recreational cannabis retail shops were still planning for large crowds Tuesday. At The Botanist in Montville, extra staff will be in place and a shuttle service will bring customers from satellite parking lots.

Kate Nelson, senior vice president of the Midwest and Northwest regions for Acreage Holdings, which owns The Botanist brand, said about 200-300 medical marijuana purchases are made on average at the Montville location. She’s predicting there will be a 150% uptick in sales during the first week of adult-use recreational business, but acknowledged that will likely level off.

The company’s second location in Connecticut, located in Danbury, is expected to open in the next few weeks after local approvals are finalized.

“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,” she 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.”

Initial sales in Connecticut will be limited to one-quarter of an ounce (7 grams) of cannabis flower or its equivalent, in an effort to ensure there will be enough support for medical marijuana patients. Different items can be purchased together to make up the one-quarter ounce. The state’s Department of Consumer Protection plans to watch retail sales and manufacturing supplies closely to determine when that amount can eventually be increased.