After Connecticut‘s law to legalize adult-use cannabis went into effect on July 1, it was expected that marijuana sales would begin by summer of 2022. At a recent “Business of Cannabis” breakfast held by the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, Michelle Seagull, the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, cautioned the launch could be delayed.
“We’ve been suggesting that there will likely be sales by the end of 2022, and we’re still aspiring for that,” Seagull said. “It’s really important to us that we preserve the medical marketplace that currently does exist. It’s important to us that that market, which is working well and helping a lot of people, doesn’t get swallowed up.”
Connecticut’s 18 currently licensed medical cannabis dispensaries will be permitted to apply for recreational cannabis licenses.
Seagull also emphasized the “need to take a look at ownership and corporate documents to understand who truly controls the business” when evaluating “large corporations trying to circumvent rules” to obtain social equity licenses. A social equity council appointed by Governor Ned Lamont and lawmakers will be responsible for decisions regarding necessary documentation for social equity applicants.
Questions remain regarding the criteria for social equity applicants, with many wanting it to include race, gender, and sexual identity to encourage more diverse participation. After 18 years in the fashion industry, Matthew Ossenfort is considering a move into the cannabis industry but is concerned about subsequent cost outlays.
“I hope the commissioner takes that question seriously, because my biggest fear is that if they only look at qualifications based on income, a bunch of licenses are going to go to people who can’t afford to actually get these businesses up and running, and the other licenses will all go to millionaires,” said Ossenfort. “The middle class should have a way into this industry, too.”
Co-founder of licensed cannabis cultivator and retailer Four Score, Kurt Smith says legalization will have a ripple effect for Connecticut businesses outside of cannabis.
“They’re creating an entirely new industry that’s going to reach all of the businesses in this room,” said Smith. “The capital-intensive nature of this business makes it difficult for these companies to start up and have all of their own infrastructure, like HR and IT departments, so I think the ancillary business market is going to see that there is a lot of opportunity here.”
Smith is also a consultant assisting cannabis businesses with licensing, planning, and design. Smith encourages Connecticut lawmakers to make funding available to social equity applicants, stating that “many of the people who get social equity licenses won’t just have $20,000 sitting around to hire an architect.”