Not an actual picture of balls in a Connecticut lottery but maybe this gives you an emotional understanding of the entirely digital process actually being used. Credit: Dylan Nolte / Unsplash

The State of Connecticut, with help from the University of Connecticut, quietly started a lottery process earlier this month for applicants seeking a license in the state’s new adult use cannabis market.

“We’re confident it would be very difficult to improperly tamper with the results given this and other precautions in place,” said Stephanie Reitz, spokesperson for UConn, who was selected to conduct the lotteries. “For instance, we do not know the names of the applicants; they are only numbers to us and are selected through a random generator.”

The law that legalized adult use cannabis in Connecticut last July stipulates that te license applicants submit to a lottery in order to get a provisional license. That law also states that the lottery will be conducted by a third-party operator from the state’s higher education system. 

The state assigned Dr. C. Michael White, head of UConn’s Department of Pharmacy Practice to lead the double-blind lottery process for selecting applicants. White started in mid-May when he conducted the lottery for social equity applicants seeking retail licenses.

Previously, a spokesperson from the Department of Consumer Protection said that they would not be releasing the name of the third party that was contracted to draw the lottery, but the same spokesperson later confirmed that UConn had been chosen.

White and his department have experience using a lottery process to randomize testing trials, according to Reitz.

“UConn’s School of Pharmacy has used methods similar to this in connection to clinical trials undertaken by its faculty, including trials funded by the National Institutes of Health,” said Reitz. “This experience demonstrates that the School of Pharmacy has the requisite skills and independence to run this important process, and also serves as a disinterested third-party that is entirely independent of the cannabis program.”

The state is awarding an even number of licenses to both social equity and non-equity applicants. In the case of retail licenses in this first round of applications, the state will issue a total 12 provisional licenses, half of which will be reserved for social equity applicants who will have reduced application fees. 

The lottery is intended to be a double-blind process, which requires DCP and the UConn School of Pharmacy to work on separate parts and in different locations.

For the state’s part, DCP took the applications and randomly assigned each one a number, not based on the order in which they were received. 

White then used a random number generator on www.random.org, according to an email from White that was leaked to Grown In by a third party, to produce the first six numbers corresponding to social equity retail applicants. In that same email, White noted that subsequent lottery drawings would not necessarily be done with the same process. Those applicants are then evaluated by the Social Equity Council to determine whether or not they qualify.

If any are rejected, the state will go back to White for the next random number in the sequence until they have six candidates that qualify for social equity status. 

Those that are then rejected based on social equity status will be admitted into the non-equity drawing after they pay the full application fee. This is primarily why social equity applicants are selected first. 

“The lotteries will occur over the next several months after application periods close for the license types and the Department of Consumer Protection provides the de-identified applicant lists to the UConn School of Pharmacy,” said Reitz. “The lotteries are not scheduled in advance.”

The first window for retail license applications closed on May 4, with periods for subsequent license types taking place each subsequent week. 

Reitz added that anyone involved in the lottery process had to certify that they do not have direct or indirect contact with involvement, oversight, investment, or financial interest in any cannabis-related company. 

Additionally, the UConn School of Pharmacy individuals involved in the lottery process will not know the identities of any applicants prior to the results of the lottery being concluded and the selected applicants being notified of the results.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...