Retail cannabis stores won't open in Connecticut until 2023

Photo of Julia Bergman
Kanaba Fair in Krakow, Poland on 11 May, 2019. Kanaba Fair is the most important cannabis event in Poland. The event combine lectures, workshops and fair with best products available on the market. Brands promote the use of hemp and medical marihuana. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Kanaba Fair in Krakow, Poland on 11 May, 2019. Kanaba Fair is the most important cannabis event in Poland. The event combine lectures, workshops and fair with best products available on the market. Brands promote the use of hemp and medical marihuana. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Beata Zawrzel | NurPhoto (Getty /NurPhoto via Getty Images

The much-anticipated opening of recreational pot stores in Connecticut will likely be delayed until early next year. The state had targeted the end of this year for retail stores to open but that timeline now seems unrealistic.

By law, there must be at least 250,000-square-feet of grow and manufacturing space approved statewide before retail pot shops can open. To start, cannabis sold in the adult-use market is expected to come from the state’s four existing medical marijuana producers, which all have applied for licenses to grow for the recreational market.

Three of the producers – Advanced Grow Labs, Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions, and Curaleaf – have completed the necessary steps to convert to their facilities to grow both recreational and medical marijuana, the state Department of Consumer Protection announced Tuesday. The remaining producer, Theraplant, applied on Nov. 10 and that application is still under review by DCP. The department is required by law to provide a 30-day notice for retail pot sales to begin. A spokesperson for the department said no date has been set yet for that notice to go out.

All four producers need to convert their faculties to serve the recreational market to ensure ample supply exists to open retail stores otherwise the state would need to wait for new producers to become operational. Currently, there are about 50,000 medical marijuana patients in Connecticut and by law ample supply must exist for them. 

DCP also announced Tuesday that seven medical marijuana dispensaries in the state have completed the steps necessary to receive licenses to sell recreational marijuana. The dispensaries include Affinity in New Haven, Bluepoint Wellness of Connecticut in Branford, C3 Torrington (Still River Wellness) in Torrington, FFD Newington, FFD Stamford, FFD Willimantic, and Willow Brook Wellness in Meriden. All 18 of the state's existing medical dispensaries had the opportunity to apply for licenses to sell to both the adult-use and medical markets. 

The state is completing its first cannabis licensing round with dozens of businesses, ranging from food and beverage to product packaging, slated for approval. As of Tuesday, the department had issued nine provisional cultivator licenses, six provisional micro-cultivator licenses, and 27 provisional retail licenses.

Nearly all the state’s cannabis licenses are being issued through a lottery system, with few exceptions. Existing medical marijuana producers and retailers, for example, did not have to apply through the lottery. The retail license type received strongest interest in the initial licensing round with more than 15,000 applications submitted to the lottery.

Connecticut, which legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021, has joined a growing number of Northeast states where recreational pot is legal. New York announced its first recreational marijuana retailers this week while New Jersey opened its first retail stores in April. In Massachusetts, where recreational weed has been legal since 2018, pot stores are bracing for sales hits as neighboring states launch their adult-use markets.

The first full year of recreational cannabis sales in Connecticut could range between $300 million and $375 million by some estimates.