Workers cleaning buds at CTPharma (CTNewsJunkie / file photo)

With Connecticut now accepting applications for adult-use cannabis licenses, some within the industry say that the start of marijuana sales for recreational use could lead to tens of thousands of jobs, as well as potential for major increases in tax revenue. 

However, members of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association said not much has been done to alleviate their concerns that serious problems will result. 

Cannabis was approved for adult-use in June 2021, with recreational sales slated to begin in late 2022. The number of applications for the various types of licenses can be found here. The figures are updated weekly. 

According to updated data from the state Thursday morning, 26,052 lottery applications have been submitted for all eight cannabis business license categories – retailer, hybrid retailer, micro-cultivator, food and beverage manufacturer, delivery service, product manufacturer, product packager and transporter.

Kaitlyn Krasselt, communications director with the state Department of Consumer Protection, said the applications will be reviewed, and those approved will receive provisional licenses to set up their businesses. A final license will be issued once the business is set up.

David Belsky, CEO and Founder of California-based  FlowerHire, a cannabis recruiting agency that helps place candidates in executive-level cannabis jobs, said his company has helped nearly 1,000 people get hired within the industry in the last five years, with an average salary of $140,000. 

In addition to jobs, Belsky said in Connecticut, buildings that have been dormant for years can now have a purpose as they can be used to grow cannabis. Jobs can be created in addition to licensed operators, like selling goods and services to those operators, he said.

“When I look at job creation, yes, it brings more opportunity to elements of the workforce that haven’t had that opportunity for quite some time – light industrial groups that have been left behind by globalization,” Belsky said. “It’s actually upper mobility.”

Belsky pointed to the successes of other states who have approved recreational sales of marijuana.

Cannabis plants (CTNewsJunkie / photo)
Cannabis plants (CTNewsJunkie / photo)

In Colorado, sales of marijuana have reached $2.2 billion in 2021 alone, with total sales hitting $12.7 billion since marijuana sales started in January 2014.  Tax revenue has reached more than $2 billion since 2014.

Illinois Governor  J.B. Pritzker’s office has said that the cannabis industry has meant new jobs for around 15,000 residents of his state.

“Illinois makes more revenue from cannabis than alcohol,” Belsky said. 

However, Cheshire Police Chief Neil Dryfe, 1st Vice President of the CT Police Chiefs Association, said that group’s concerns have not changed in the year since Gov. Ned Lamont signed the legislation in 2021. He said there is still no roadside chemical test available to measure intoxication by cannabis in drivers. 

“That remains a major concern of the Police Chiefs Association and its members – how are we going to properly identify and take the appropriate enforcement action against people we suspect are driving under the influence of cannabis,” Dryfe said. 

The training an officer has to receive to become a “drug recognition expert,” is expensive.  

Dryfe added the legalization of marijuana in other states has not had much of an impact on illegal sales of cannabis.

“The costs of regulation and taxation make it a much more expensive product,” Dryfe said, prompting some consumers to turn to the illegal market. He said the association continues to be concerned about information that shows that accidental overdoses and fatal car accidents actually increased in other places that have legalized marijauana.

Some medical professionals have cited edibles as a problem, particularly for underage children who overeat because the effects don’t kick in for a period of time. 

Hartford Police Department patch
Image of a Hartford Police Department uniform patch

“We have already seen a couple of incidents where school-aged children have gotten a hold of edibles and ingested them and had to be transported for medical attention,” Dryfe said, adding many medical professionals expressed concerns about the legislation. 

Belsky said, while people should do their own research about the benefits or risks of cannabis, he believes there are ample benefits. Cannabis use for medical purposes has been legalized in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Adult use of marijuana is legal in DC and 18 states.  

Belsky said marijuana can be used to treat pain, inflammation, hunger and sleep. While cannabis can be used recreationally, it doesn’t have to mean people aren’t functioning, Belsky said, as that market allows its users to understand more about what kind of dose they should use, and to get information so they can trust what they are putting into their bodies.

“It allows you to figure out how best to have cannabis serve you and sometimes in some circles, it ends up replacing things, replacing alcohol potentially,” Belsky said. “One of the things that is for sure is it tends to be a safer form of recreation than other things and also may have less side effects than some pharmaceutical treatments for certain types of things like the ones I mentioned.”

A 2021 paper, titled ‘The Public Health Effects of Legalizing Marijuana,’ explored previous studies surrounding the sale of recreational and medical marijuana and its impact on a variety of issues including youth, crime, mental health and traffic fatalities. 

Most researchers seem to focus on the issue as it relates to youths using marijuana, according to the paper, written by D. Mark Anderson of the Department of Agricultural Economics & Economics at Montana State University, and Daniel I. Rees, of the Department of Economics at the University of Colorado at Denver.

While the authors found two studies that showed recreational marijuana sales had no effect on marijuana use by youths, one study did find that legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes was associated with a substantial increase in past month marijuana use among 12- through 17-year-olds. “As more states legalize marijuana for recreational purposes and more years of post-treatment data become available in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, Monitoring the Future, and National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a clearer picture will presumably emerge,” the authors state.

Studies done also use different variables, resulting in different outcomes, according to the authors. 

While one study found no evidence of impact on traffic fatalities in Colorado and Washington, another study found that Colorado did in fact see an increase.  “As more years of Fatality Analysis Reporting System data are made available from other recreational marijuana states, we will undoubtedly learn more about RMLs (recreational marijuana laws) and road safety,” the authors write.

Meanwhile, Dryfe said, the police and the Connecticut public will have to wait and see what happens when sales begin here, and be ready to respond by the legislature and law enforcement working together to make any necessary changes. 

“That’s our hope – that if there are any unforeseen negatives, that the legislature will be willing to revisit the statutes and adjust them if the evidence and the data points them in the direction that says, ‘hey, this was an unforeseen consequence and we need to change it became it’s putting people in danger’,” Dryfe said. 

He added that while officials are hoping for the best, it is prepared for the worst, including dealing with the potential for an increase in fatal accidents.  “Because we deal with the families of the victims of those incidents, we certainly would take no satisfaction in that coming to fruition.”