The state of Connecticut has quietly put together a recreational cannabis market where retail sales could begin before the end of 2022. The state also is standing out for a focus on social equity before the Connecticut recreational cannabis market even opens.
Lawmakers approved the Connecticut recreational cannabis market in June 2021. In July 2021, the state decriminalized cannabis, allowing adults to possess 1.5 ounces legally and up to five ounces in a locked container at home.
The state is now considering applications for retail outlets and have made a focused effort to invite people from minority communities – called “social equity” candidates – to apply for a recreational cannabis retail license. In that regard, Connecticut is staying ahead of an issue that has arisen in other states.
A Focus on the War On Drugs Impact
When Gov. Ned Lamont and the Connecticut General Assembly approved the law legalizing recreational cannabis in 2021, they made a point of ensuring the law address social equity issues.
When he signed the law, Lamont said, “For decades, the war on cannabis caused injustices and created disparities while doing little to protect public health and safety.” The new law aims to correct those issues. Included in the law are provisions to:
- Train police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving
- Expunging criminal records of people convicted of certain cannabis crimes
- Directing new funding to prevention and recovery services that help prevent cannabis use by minors
- Promoting safe, healthy use of cannabis by those of legal age.
The new law also created a Social Equity Council (SEC) to oversee an effort to draw more social equity applicants into the cannabis market. The state plans to award half of all initial cannabis retail licenses to social equity applicants. These provisions are meant to help counteract decades of disproportionate arrests and prosecutions of Black people and others from communities of color.
Growers Already in Approvals Process
The SEC already has approved 16 applicants for the first group of cannabis growers in Connecticut, according to the Hartford Courant. The council forwarded the names to the state’s consumer protection officials for a background check.
Social equity applicants are being reviewed for licenses as a cultivator, producer, manufacturer, food and beverage manufacturer, sales, dispensary facilities, delivery service and transporters.
While the SEC efforts are moving forward, state officials still say they need to complete work on the entire cannabis supply chain. This includes licensing on in-state retail locations, testing labs, and growers. The state also is requiring 250,000 square feet of grow and manufacture space devoted exclusively to the adult-use market.
That means while state officials hope to launch retail sales by the end of 2022, they have not yet set an exact date. Still, to this point, the Connecticut recreational cannabis market already provides for diverse business ownership, decriminalizes possession, and has been marked by little of the drama that plagued other states.