Thursday will be a big step closer to recreational marijuana sales happening here in Connecticut.
On Feb. 3, online applications open up for anyone who wants to be a part of this new industry. There are several different licenses you can apply for depending on whether you'd like to grow or sell.
An equal number of licenses will be given to social equity applicants and general applicants. Officials say there will be a lot of steps and documents required.
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NBC Connecticut's Dan Corcoran spoke with the Chair of the Social Equity Council, Andrea Comer, about the process.
Dan: "Take us through some of the conversations that you've had with the Social Equity Council and the Department of Consumer Protections to create these applications. What were some of the most important aspects for you?"
Comer: "I think the most important aspect was ensuring that the community had the information that they needed to know, that they could apply for one of the various license types fully informed. There are several license types, I believe it's nine. And there are many. There are three different pathways by which someone can apply for a license, both the lottery as well as just a direct application. And so we wanted to make sure that people had as much information as possible. Our drug control division put together some checklists so that people could see item by item, because especially for the social equity applicants, there's a significant amount of information that has to be provided."
Dan: "These online applications, when people look at them, they may notice that this is not a quick and easy process. There's actually a lot of steps and documents, as you said. Are you worried that it's just too much for some of those potential applicants?"
Comer: "I think anything is solvable. And I think as long as there is education out there, and there is support out there, to walk people through. And I know the Social Equity Council, the staff, the Interim Executive Director and her team are putting together information sessions as we speak to provide that support as well as office hours so that people can dial in with specific questions. We also have two email addresses dedicated to providing answers for folks. So it is very complicated, but this business is very complicated and very complex. And we want to make sure that we are verifying documentation and verifying business ownership, because at the end of the day, this is supposed to be about equity. And so we have to ensure that people are applying with integrity."
Dan: "Good to know if there's some help for these applicants along the way. Now, I know that money was also a big consideration here. And in some of the public hearings, there were concerns that the application fees themselves for social equity applicants were just too high. So where did you land on that? And are you happy with the decision?"
Comer: "The license fees are unchanged. And as I said before, the fee for let's say a cultivator for a social equity applicant to enter into the lottery is $500. It will cost you about $750,000 at a minimum to be able to stand up a cultivator establishment. So my point is that if $500 is a challenge, that $750,000 is going to be a very steep uphill climb. And so we definitely want anyone who want to get into this business to have a pathway, but we also have to be realistic about what the challenges and opportunities are."
Dan: "Yeah, starting a business is not easy. It's not cheap in many cases. So walk us through the next steps here. Once someone applies for a retail license, how long will it be before they could be approved?"
Comer: "We will open up the applications tomorrow [Thursday]. And you can apply for a retail license, you can apply for a cultivator license. If you are not participating in the lottery, you can also apply for conversion for those existing medical operators and producers. So once those applications come in, the lottery will take place roughly 90 days afterwards. So we anticipate that provisional licenses will be awarded a few months after that because there are going to be some weeks that all of this documentation has to be reviewed."
Dan: "And consumers have questions, too. So originally, they were hoping that retail sales could actually begin sometime this year. Is that going to happen?"
Comer: "I would say retail sales could happen at the end of the year. And potentially, you know, if not at the end of the year, certainly at the beginning of 2023."