Connecticut’s regulators have approved their first batch of adult-use cannabis licenses after the state’s Social Equity Council voted July 12 to greenlight 16 cultivation applications.

The licensees, selected from a pool of 41 applicants, meet the state’s social equity requirements, which include specifications on income and residency, as well as a rule that the business is at least 65% owned by the social equity applicant, according to a local WTNH report.

“Our goal was and is to affirm that social equity applicants are true owners of their businesses,” said Social Equity Council Chair Andrea Comer at the start of Tuesday’s virtual meeting, according to WTNH. “Promoting equity in the cannabis industry is our primary charge.”

The Social Equity Council was created by the Legislature through Connecticut’s adult-use cannabis law, which Gov. Ned Lamont signed last summer. The council is meant to oversee the rollout of the state’s adult-use industry to ensure it benefits those most adversely impacted by cannabis prohibition.

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection received more than 37,000 applications in May and June from businesses looking to secure licenses for adult-use cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, packaging, transportation and retail, and 63% of those applicants self-identified as social equity applicants, according to The Connecticut Examiner.

The applications that the Social Equity Council approved this week are for cultivators who want to grow more than 15,000 square feet of cannabis, the news outlet reported.

A third-party firm reviewed the applications and recommended five in Hartford, three in New Britain, two in Bridgeport, two in Waterby, and one each in Middletown, Manchester, Southington and Stamford, WTNH reported.

Now that they have been approved by the Social Equity Council, the applicants must complete a background check through the Department of Consumer Protection and pay a $3 million fee to the state in order to secure a provisional license.

The names of the licensees have not yet been announced, according to WTNH.

The state will issue additional licenses through a separate lottery process, The Examiner reported, and Connecticut’s adult-use market is expected to launch by the end of the year.

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