After recreational marijuana became legal in Connecticut on July 1, 2021, both consumers and cannabis business owners alike have been sitting on the edge of their seats to see when residents can begin purchasing adult-use merchandise legally. Unfortunately, retail sales will likely not begin until at least the end of 2022 and many facets of the law are still being determined.
What is in Effect Now?
According to the official Connecticut government website, possession of 1.5 oz of cannabis is now legal. Those who wish to grow marijuana at home may not at this time, but medical marijuana patients are now able to grow up to three mature and three immature plants at home which began on October 1, 2021, with a cap of 12 total plants per household. All adults will be able to grow under the same rules starting July 1, 2023.
How the Cannabis License Application Works
On February 3, 2022 the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) released its first set of cannabis license applications, which is the first step for licensee hopefuls who wish to participate in the state lottery for recreational adult use retail facilities and for those interested in applying under Section 149 of the statute. The applications can be found on the DCP’s eLicense page.
If the DCP receives more lottery applications than the maximum number of licenses allotted for each license type or reserved for social equity applicants for each license type, applications will be selected through a lottery process. The lottery will be conducted by a third-party lottery operator, and there will be two types:
- A social equity lottery
- A general lottery
The social equity lottery will be conducted first and is for social equity applicants only.
The general lottery will be conducted after the conclusion of the social equity lottery and will include:
- All social equity applications not selected in the social equity lottery.
- Applicants that were selected, but did not qualify for the social equity lottery, provided they pay the lottery balance fee.
- Non-social equity applicants.
The Lottery & Review Process
The reason why adult-use retail sales is taking longer than expected to launch is because the lottery and review process is quite lengthy. In case you are one of the applicants who are still awaiting final license approval, or are simply wondering what the process is like and if you should apply, the Connecticut government website states the following steps that are included in the process:
- DCP will assign a unique application identifier to each lottery application it receives and provide the unique application identifiers to the third-party lottery operator.
- The third-party lottery operator will randomize and rank the applications and inform DCP which applications were selected through the lottery for the allotted number of licenses.
- At the time the lottery ranking occurs, the third-party operator will not know the name of the applicant associated with each unique application identifier.
- For the social equity lotteries, the Social Equity Council (SEC) will then review the selected applicants to ensure they meet the social equity qualifying criteria and identify for DCP the qualifying applicants DCP should review for purposes of issuing a provisional license.
- If a selected lottery applicant is disqualified by the SEC because it does not satisfy the social equity qualifying criteria, the lottery operator will provide the next sequentially ranked application in the SEC lottery for the SEC to review. The SEC will notify the DCP that the selected lottery application does not qualify as social equity. The disqualified applicant will be notified by the DCP and given an opportunity to pay the difference in the lottery fee to enter into the general lottery.
- This process will continue until the total number of social equity license opportunities have been allocated by the SEC to social equity lottery applicants, or there are no qualified social equity lottery applicants remaining.
- DCP will then initiate the general lottery.
- DCP will review the backers of applicants selected through the SEC lottery process and the general lottery for disqualifying convictions and adverse administrative findings or judicial decisions, and violations of the ownership cap.
- If, upon review by DCP, any lottery application is disqualified, the lottery operator may be asked to provide the next sequentially ranked application, until all available license opportunities are allocated. If a social equity applicant is denied, the next ranked applicant would be identified from the rankings of the social equity lottery and reviewed by the SEC prior to being reviewed by DCP.
- After the lottery selection process is complete, the third-party lottery operator and DCP will identify which applicant names are associated with the unique application identifiers selected based on the lottery ranking.
“The first 12 licenses will be given permission to apply, and then up to 14 months to fill out the application,” Michelle Bodian, counsel in Vicente Sederberg’s Boston and New York offices and co-chair of the firm’s Hemp and Cannabinoids Department and Grants and Loans practice group, said. “This does not mean that sales will happen immediately — there will be a few steps to take and Connecticut plans to hold another lottery this year, but they have not said when and we do not know if retail licenses will be available or how many will be available.”