Cannabis Will Be Sold At Stores in Connecticut: “There Will Be Lineups”!

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A long-awaited step toward Connecticut’s goal of decriminalizing marijuana and establishing a fair legal market, the state’s first retail cannabis stores for recreational use will open their doors on Tuesday. Nine currently operating medical cannabis dispensaries were given approval by state regulators to sell adult-use cannabis as well, and seven of them will begin legal sales on January 10 at 10 a.m., the earliest time permitted.

It won’t likely be until later this year before other brand-new retail cannabis stores open. By legalizing Marijuana for recreational use, Connecticut joins a number of other northeastern states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and, more recently, Rhode Island and New York. The first legal marijuana shops in Connecticut were supposed to open by the end of 2022, but state officials missed that target by 10 days.

Nobody is entirely certain how much demand there will be for marijuana at Connecticut’s first legal dispensaries, but many anticipate heavy traffic and long lineups in the early going. Nearly 50,000 individuals who have signed up for the state’s medical program have been instructed to shop before Tuesday morning. “There will be a line. And anyone who isn’t contemplating that is simply dreaming.

You’re deluding yourself, declared Vincent Bucchieri, general manager of Meriden’s Zen Leaf, one of the first shops to begin selling adult products. According to Bucchieri, the dispensary serves between 300 and 400 medical customers each day, and he anticipates that the demand from recreational customers would be significantly higher.

General Manager Patty Marr of RISE in Branford, formerly known as Bluepoint Wellness of Connecticut, one of the first medical marijuana shops in the state, said she expects a significant demand. According to Marr, the dispensary sees 250 patients every day on average. People in Connecticut have been waiting for cannabis access for a very long time, she said. “We moved to Branford in 2014, the year the medical program began. We hope that our reputation carries across to adult use.

What to Expect

To establish that they are 21 years of age or older, customers must present a government ID. Cash or debit cards are accepted at stores. For clients seeking medical care and those seeking recreation, different lines, kiosks, and ordering options will be available. Recreational consumers cannot purchase items from the medical menu, but medical patients may order from the recreational menu.

Cannabis Will Be Sold At Stores in Connecticut: "There Will Be Lineups"!

Patients who use medical marijuana have access to greater potency products and can buy larger quantities of cannabis — five ounces per month as opposed to a quarter ounce of cannabis flower per transaction for recreational users. Patty Marr stated that RISE is preparing to raise medical marijuana consumers’ delivery times from one day to three days as an additional option to assist them in avoiding potential traffic and long queues.

The state’s 6.35 percent sales tax, a 3 percent local tax that goes to the city or town where the sale occurs, and a tax based on the THC content of the product, ranging from 10 to 15 percent of the total sale price, will bring the total taxes for recreational marijuana sales to around 20 percent, in line with other states.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive compound that gives cannabis consumption its characteristic “high.” Medication is nontaxable, thus products bought through the medicinal marijuana program are exempt from sales or other taxes. Customers can check the websites of the dispensaries, which will be routinely updated, to see what goods are available or whether a specific product has sold out, according to Bucchieri.

Cannabis Will Be Sold At Stores in Connecticut: "There Will Be Lineups"!

He declared that beginning on day one, Zen Leaf will accept online preorders from customers. In the first few days of sales, he anticipates that marijuana edibles, cannabis flowers, and vape cartridges will be offered for sale. Theraplant, Advanced Grow Labs, Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions, and Curaleaf are the state’s four medical marijuana producers now in operation.

Additional growers are anticipated to open up shop as they finish the licensing process over time. After receiving a provisional license, companies have 14 months to finish the requirements, obtain a final license, and start doing business in the adult-use market. On the first day of sales for adult use, the following seven dispensaries are anticipated to be open:

  • Affinity, New Haven
  • RISE, formerly known as Bluepoint Wellness of Connecticut, Branford
  • Fine Fettle Dispensary, Newington
  • Fine Fettle Dispensary, Stamford
  • Fine Fettle Dispensary, Willimantic
  • The Botanist, Montville
  • Zen Leaf, formerly known as Willow Brook Wellness, Meriden

Adult-use sales will start at Still River Wellness in Torrington and The Botanist in Danbury later in 2023. In the meanwhile, both will still provide medical patients with care. Beginning on February 1, Silver River Wellness plans to begin selling recreational items. Although The Botanist has not specified a start date for its Danbury location, it has stated that adult-use sales would begin this year.

The dispensaries have been busy making preparations over the past several weeks and months, including employing more employees, growing their physical locations, putting order kiosks, and increasing parking lots and storage space. The first legal Marijuana stores opening will be historic, but it will also provide the companies an advantage in the expanding industry.

It’s a significant benefit. Here is where we firmly establish our recreational clientele. Do first impressions really matter? said Bucchieri. To be pretty honest, “in terms of income because people want to buy the product and want to spend their money on this stuff, but also in terms of customer retention, creating trust and getting them to be loyal clients.”

In particular, social equity applicants, who were disproportionately affected by the previous cannabis ban and to whom the law was meant to provide possibilities to enter the legal market by giving preference in the licensing procedure, are concerned about this. Kebra Smith-Bolden, a New Haven resident who was one of those who sued the state for denying her social equity status, is one of those applicants.

She triumphed and partnered with Acreage Holdings, Inc., a cannabis business with Canadian roots, to win approval for cultivation and a retail license. “Why would you do something that totally disadvantages social equity retail business owners by giving the already established, already privileged medical providers and players a head start when first movers are the ones who are able to be successful?” she asked.

“If social equity is really at the forefront of this entire cannabis program here in the state of Connecticut, then why would you do something that totally disadvantages social equity retail business owners,” Smith-Bolden said she wished the state had begun recreational sales later in the year to give new business owners like herself a more even playing field.

She has numerous further approvals to fulfill in addition to being in negotiations for a site in New Haven to serve as her retail store. By mid-summer, she expects to launch her dispensary, but she said that even that is “optimistic.”

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