Legal recreational marijuana sales start in Connecticut

Legal recreational marijuana sales start in Connecticut

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

About 40 dispensaries, along with dozens of other cannabis-related businesses, are expected to eventually open in Connecticut by the end of this year.

“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 two years and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue that will help benefit communities most affected by the war on drugs.

Lamont, a Democrat, said Tuesday that one of the goals of the legislation legalizing recreational marijuana was to create a regulated and safer product for consumers. Another part of the law allows low-level marijuana felony convictions to be expunged, pretty much automatically. Nearly 44,000 such convictions have been expunged since the start of the new year, officials said.

“Today marks a turning point in the injustices caused by the war on drugs, especially now that there is a legal alternative to the dangerous, unregulated and underground market for the sale of cannabis,” Lamont said in a statement.

Recreational sales were allowed to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday. State-approved stores in Branford, Meriden, Montville, New Haven, Newington, Stamford and Willimantic 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.

In Montville, local state legislators and the mayor came out for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at The Botanist. A steady stream of medical marijuana patients stopped by to get their stuff before recreational sales began. Workers inside a lighted tent folded free T-shirts and prepared to help customers place orders at kiosks.

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Lynn Goldstein, 60, of Norwich, was the first customer in line at Montville. She said she has suffered from chronic pain since 2011 and has been a client of medical marijuana. She said she was pleased that recreational sales are now legal, but had some concerns.

“I worry about the young people because they don’t know how to deal with it and they will drive with rocks and it will be very difficult for the police to figure out what it is,” she said.

Goldstein added that she didn’t intend to be first in line, but she was glad she was. She was given a goody bag, including a $250 vaporizer.

At the Fine Fettle Dispensary in Willimantic, about 20 people lined up before opening. The dispensary had asked customers to order online and arrive at the store at a certain time to avoid long queues.

Samuel Gabbey, a 32-year-old package delivery operations manager from Mansfield, said he had been waiting years for this day. He thought it would be better for people to go to a legal shop, to avoid buying from strangers and to ease concerns about unknown substances added to marijuana.

“The day has finally come when we can all come here and get what we want and go home without having to worry about the police or anything,” he said. “So it’s a good day for people in Connecticut.”

It’s unclear whether the novelty of legalized marijuana has worn off for Connecticut consumers, given that 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, though it remains illegal under federal law. Since voters approved legalization in Maryland and Missouri in November, marijuana advocates have mounted similar efforts across the US, including Ohio and Oklahoma.

As of February 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 shops braced for big crowds Tuesday.

Kate Nelson, senior vice president of the Midwest and Northwest regions for Acreage Holdings, which owns The Botanist brand, said the Montville location sees about 200 to 300 medical marijuana customers each day. She predicted there will be a 150% increase in sales during the first week of recreational sales, but admitted that this is likely to decrease.

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

“I think even before the 40 carriers come online, you’re going to start seeing less of that excitement of something new and more of what’s going to become the status quo,” Nelson said. “We’re in an area now in the country where there are other states to grow close by. So it’s really going to be a focus of ours, in the state of Connecticut, to make sure that this grower program has the product that it needs to have and we can support the industry … to make sure for Connecticut to set itself apart from other competitive markets.”

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


Associated Press writer Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.


This story has been corrected to indicate that the person speaking at the Montville store was Lynn Goldstein, not Laura Bass-Wright.

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