RECREATIONAL CANNABIS IN CONNECTICUT: WHAT BUSINESS OWNERS WITH A PROVISIONAL LICENSE NEED TO KNOW
Congratulations! If you are a recipient of a provisional license for a recreational cannabis establishment, then you made it through the lottery system in Connecticut. Now, you have fourteen months to gather all the necessary evidence—as provided in Public Act No. 21-1 § 35—to apply for a final license and open for business to the public. Provisional licenses are non-renewable, so it is crucial to follow all the necessary steps within those fourteen months. These steps include finding a location and getting zoning approval from the municipality.
Zoning Approval and Municipal Zoning Changes
A cannabis establishment needs zoning approval from local authorities to operate. Notably, retailers and micro-cultivators need a special permit or other “affirmative approval” from the municipality. In general, however, all business owners with provisional licenses must check the zoning regulations in their municipality because every municipality has different zoning regulations for cannabis establishments. With 169 municipalities in Connecticut this can be difficult to track. Moreover, just because a municipality has reported a zoning change to the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), which maintains a list of reported zoning changes, does not mean cannabis establishments are permanently allowed or prohibited in that municipality. In many cases, towns have enacted temporary moratoriums to allow them time to implement carefully designed zoning regulations. In some cases, towns have failed to report their zoning changes and/or moratoriums, making the list maintained by the DCP inaccurate. Thus, business owners should be careful and contact their specific local zoning authority for a complete and accurate record of a municipality’s decision.
Although the lottery application did not require business owners to indicate a location, evidence of a right to occupy a location is needed for this final stage of licensure. You will need to either negotiate and sign a lease or purchase real estate. Neither Public Act No. 21-1 nor the Connecticut General Statutes specify requirements for distance from other businesses or buildings, like schools. However, each municipality has the power to impose limitations on the proximity of cannabis establishments to “churches, public or parochial schools, convents, charitable institutions supported by private or public funds, hospitals or veterans’ homes or any camps, barracks or flying fields of the armed forces.” Thus, compliance with this requirement hinges on municipal-specific restrictions. Check if your town has enacted a municipal moratorium against cannabis businesses at the following link: https://portal.ct.gov/cannabis/Knowledge-Base/Articles/Municipal-cannabis-zoning-changes-reported-to-DCP?language=en_US
There are many ongoing changes to recreational cannabis licensure. The cannabis law attorneys at BPS Lawyers are experienced representing cannabis business clients in licensing, zoning, and commercial leasing and purchase of real estate. If you have any questions about this topic, contact the cannabis law attorneys at BPS Lawyers.
 Evidence of “a right to occupy the location where the cannabis establishment will be located” and “any necessary local zoning approval for the cannabis establishment operation” Public Act No. 21-1 § 35.