Out-of-state owners made up 83% of all medical retail store owners in Connecticut, according to an analysis by Grown In. Although state regulators have not yet set how many licenses for the state’s nascent adult-use market will be issued nor when the application process will begin, it has been determined that 50% of the licenses in each category will be awarded to social equity applicants.
Connecticut enacted its medical marijuana program in 2012 and issued the first six dispensary licenses in April 2014. As of today, the state has 18 dispensaries and four cultivators in its medical program.
Publicly traded Curaleaf, which has the most retail licenses of any company, including in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, and Massachusetts, owns four out of the 18 Connecticut retail licenses, in Hartford, Stamford, Groton, and Milford. It also holds one of four cultivation licenses.
Curaleaf is facing one legal proceeding, according to a 6-K report, for claims relating to a lock up agreement involving former minority shareholders of Curaleaf’s Connecticut operations.
Trailing behind Curaleaf for most retail ownership is Connecticut-based Eric Zachs, who co-owns two Fine Fettle retail stores in Connecticut and more in Massachusetts, and also co-owns Tedra Health in Storrs, Connecticut.
Zachs is currently co-chairman and founder of Torrecom Partners and managing partner at Communications Tower Group and Bantry Bay Ventures. He’s also co-chairman of Message Center Management. He sits on the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and previously sat on the board of Hartford Hospital Regional Board.
Publicly traded Green Thumb Industries owns two Bluepoint Wellness dispensaries, one in Branford and another in Westport.
The Connecticut owners for retailers Bluepoint Wellness include Green Thumb Industries CEO and board member Benjamin Kovler of Chicago, Illinois; Osama Abdelghany of Cromwell, Connecticut; and Nicholas Tamborrino of Fairfield, Connecticut.
Bluepoint Wellness co-owner Abdelghany is the executive director of oncology pharmacy services at Smilow Cancer Hospital and was previously an investigational drug service coordinator at Yale New Haven Health, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Also a clinical pharmacist, Bluepoint Wellness co-owner Tamborrino has worked at St. Vincent’s Medical Center as a hospital pharmacist and previously at Bridgeport Hospital in the same role, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Green Thumb Industries also owns dispensary Southern Connecticut Wellness and Healing, directly owned by Kovler.
Green Thumb Industries also owns Advanced Grow Labs, one of four cultivator licenses in the state. The facility, acquired by the company in 2019, produces and distributes various cannabis products to Connecticut retailers, according to an annual form 10-K SEC filing. It is owned by Kovler and Pete Kadens of Chicago, Illinois.
Kadens was previously the CEO of Green Thumb Industries and served as board director for the Marijuana Policy Project. He’s a self-described “serial entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist,” according to his LinkedIn profile.
Green Thumb Industries operates in 11 other states, which are California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Publicly traded Acreage Holdings holds two retail licenses, Prime Wellness in South Windsor and Thames Valley Relief in Uncasville. Kevin Murphy of Madison, Connecticut, solely owns both stores. He is a founder and chair of the board of Acreage Holdings and also the founder and chief investment officer at Viridescent Capital Partners, a private equity firm that focuses on the cannabis industry.
Sarah Westby, co-chair of Shipman’s cannabis industry team, told GrownIn the process for adult use licenses will be governed by the Department of Consumer Protection and the newly formed Social Equity Council.
Westby said other multistate operators that want to participate in the Connecticut cannabis industry will likely have to form partnerships with people who meet the definition of a social equity applicant.
“You can have partnerships but it has to still be majority-owned by a social equity applicant,” Westby said.
An applicant could be a person or it could be a company, Westby said. The law allows for almost any operator type to partner with a social equity applicant, and that the social equity applicant has to own at least 50% of the business. If the applicant is more than one person or if an entity is involved, then at least 65% of the ownership of the business has to be in the hands of an individual or individuals who meet the definition of a social equity applicant to qualify for priority status.
“What the law envisions is that there will be two different lotteries for licensing. There will be a lottery for people who qualify as social equity applicants, and then there will be a second lottery for people who qualify as general applicants,” Westby said.
In order to qualify as a social equity applicant, the person would have had to have lived in a disproportionately affected area five of the last 10 years. If not, the first 18 years of their life. In addition, they cannot have income greater than 300% of the median household income in the state, which is under $225,000.
“Either you’ve lived there recently, or you grew up in one of these areas,” Westby said. “The council has designed these requirements to really assist people who grew up in disproportionately affected areas, the majority of which are Black and Brown people.”
Overall, the state’s cannabis owners hail mostly from Massachusetts, with Connecticut, Illinois, and Nevada trailing behind.
“Multi-state operators are interested in building up their footprint nationally and becoming dominant players in the market, bringing good standard practices to the industry,” said Andy Glassman, a member of the Cannabis, Hemp and CBD team at law firm Pullman & Comley.
“The original industry was well represented by Connecticut residents,” Glassman said.