Montville Mayor Ron McDaniel may have summed up Tuesday’s mood best.
“Smoke them if you got them, and if you don’t have them, get them here,” he said.
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, people 21 and older are allowed to buy cannabis products for recreational use in Connecticut. Possession of marijuana was legalized in the state in July 2021 and medical use was legalized in 2012. For adult-use cannabis sales, the state wanted a controlled process through licensing, and started issuing hybrid licenses to nine existing dispensaries in the state, including The Botanist in Montville and Fine Fettle Dispensary in the Willimantic section of Windham.
The start of adult-use sales means an opportunity to see how things play out, and see what needs to be changed. Legal cannabis sales in Connecticut hopefully reduce exposure to fentanyl, said State Senator Cathy Osten.
How will CT cities and towns spend new cannabis tax income?
Cities and towns will also explore how the municipal payment, 3% of sales, can be used.
“It helps them out with programming for children, perhaps increasing the DARE programs and the mental health programs they haven’t been able to afford,” Osten said.
In Windham, the extra revenue will go toward the Windham PRIDE Coalition. Employees have also helped with different volunteer efforts around town before, said Fine Fettle Dispensary CEO Richard Carbray.
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“We’re part of the community,” he said. “We want to be a very supportive business.”
Outside of The Botanist, police were stationed early in the morning, around the driveway. Nearby businesses had yard signs telling people not to park in their lot if they were there for the dispensary. McDaniel told The Bulletin in December he was nervous about handling traffic, but on Tuesday just before the sales time, things were going fine.
It may be a while before Montville sees economic benefits from adult-use cannabis, as documentation and logistics still need to be figured out. It’s also possible to see more jobs and other spillover effects from legal recreational cannabis, McDaniel said.
“Perhaps people stop at the diner when they come out, or they’re going to get gas,” he said.
Will there be more traffic near dispensaries offering adult-use cannabis?
As the facility sees between 300 and 400 medical patients per day, there will be a significant increase in traffic to start, enough that recreational sales take place in a tent outside the main building for at least the next two weeks, said The Botanist Connecticut Operations General Manager Ben Tinsley.
Up at Fine Fettle Dispensary, a line built outside waiting for sales to start, but it was small and orderly, as people were slowly let inside and queued in a second line. Required online pre-ordering prevented a Black Friday-like camp out, said Manager Rhyder Cookman, as people were given times to arrive along with their order.
Fine Fettle normally gets 20 medical patients an hour, but the shop saw another 60 people per hour Tuesday. It’s not yet clear what future sales will look like, said Cookman.
While waiting for legal cannabis sales, Mansfield resident Sam Gabbey would buy from stores in Massachusetts. Now that sales are legal, it’s a surreal feeling for him.
“Now that the day has happened, we’re safe and we don’t have to worry about looking over your shoulder anymore,” he said.
Norwich resident Jose Ceron also purchased adult-use cannabis from Fine Fettle on Tuesday. He said Norwich is ready to enter the recreational cannabis industry.
“(Being nervous about recreational cannabis) is an older generation mentality,” he said.
What happens to CT patients with medical cannabis prescriptions?
Despite the potential of recreational sales, Tinsley and Cookman both emphasized that medical patients are still the priority.
At Fine Fettle, there are dedicated medical pickup areas, so patients aren’t stuck in the winding adult-use line.
“We’re making sure they can get their medicine as quickly and easily as they always have,” he said.
With The Botanist, there will be medical patient-only hours from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and those customers will receive a 20% discount through at least January.
“They’re the foundation of our business,” he said. “They’re the reason why we’re here.”
What is the future of marijuana in Connecticut?
There is an expectation of more competition as the industry progresses. Oversaturation has happened in other states, but Connecticut’s management of the industry should avoid that, Tinsley said.
Carbray isn’t worried about out-of-state competitors for Fine Fettle, as it’s about “providing access and good service. That’s what we’ve done here for the last three years.”
Fine Fettle is also looking forward to opening up the state’s first fully recreational dispensary and social equity joint venture in Manchester near Buckland Hills Mall in the next four weeks. The company expects to open six social equity joint ventures, with majority control by social equity candidates, around Connecticut, Carbray said.