Following the opening of seven adult-use dispensaries on Jan. 10, 2023, the first week of recreational cannabis sales in Connecticut was marked by high customer demand, low stock levels and the introduction of gummies. Businesses increased staff, pushed online transactions, shifted employees from cannabis markets, and fulfilled orders outside for customers waiting in line to keep up with the increased demand.
Despite numerous restrictions on retail cannabis sales, the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) reported that adult-use sales exceeded $251,000 in the first few hours of operation.
With three of its four medical marijuana licenses converted into hybrid retail permits to serve recreational users, Fine Fettle Dispensary has seen a fourfold increase in transactions during the past week. The company chose to fulfill orders primarily through online preorders and scheduled pickup times at its various locations, with notification updates sent via text or email.
Similarly, long lines formed outside the Zen Leaf dispensary in Meriden, where customers cheered and were given free donuts and coffee.
To reduce the long checkout line, the Botanist in Montville used a team of staffers outside the store to take customer questions, log orders under tents on mobile tablets and inform customers about available strains.
Connecticut has one of the most restrictive adult-use cannabis markets in the nation. Only 13 businesses of any kind had licenses when it first legalized cannabis, and all 13 businesses paid high premiums to convert their medical cannabis licenses into hybrid retail and production operations.
Producers pay a $3 million fee, while dispensaries pay a $1 million fee. However, if businesses agree to form two separate joint ventures with two social-equity applicants, which includes two additional licenses, the fees could be reduced by half.
The availability and variety of products have also been hampered by potency limits and product bans. THC is limited to 30% for flower and 60% for all other cannabis products under Connecticut’s adult-use program, restrictions that do not apply to the MMJ market.
For recreational users, it is forbidden to use products that are administered like medicine, such as capsules, pills, suppositories, and sublingual products that go under the tongue.
Additionally, Connecticut adopted novel classification systems that prohibit medical and adult-use retailers from using names of conventional cannabis strains, including Gorilla Glue, Gelato or Wedding Cake. Instead, the strains are sold under names with pharmacological connotations, such as Sativarin R T23.12, Indicol VW T28.57 and Hybridol HI T25.13.
Despite the difficulties facing the retail industry, consumer demand is strong, and retailers anticipate business growth in the months to come, especially after the holiday shopping season.
The 2022 MJBizFactbook predicts that recreational sales in Connecticut will reach $300 million to $375 million this year as more growers, manufacturers and sellers come online; projections call for those numbers to reach $650 million to $825 million by 2026.
As these new markets take off, expansion-focused companies such as Flora Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: FLGC) will have more viable options to study as they expand their footprint across the country and internationally.
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