Cannabis plant. Credit: Christine Stuart photo

Licensed Connecticut cannabis retailers will be permitted to begin selling a limited amount of their product – up to a quarter ounce per transaction – to adults at least 21 years old on Jan. 10, the state Consumer Protection Department announced Friday.

The date represents the long-awaited start of Connecticut’s commercial cannabis market, authorized by a 2021 law that legalized the recreational use of the substance. Sales can begin at 10 a.m. on the second Tuesday of January, the agency announced in a press release.

“Importantly, this is just a start,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull told reporters during a Friday morning virtual conference. “More retailers will be opening up over time as they build out their businesses and get approval from us.”

The first vendors to come online will be hybrid retailers, who also serve the state’s medical marijuana patients. The initial limitations on recreational sales are designed to make sure there remains adequate supply to support both markets. Medical marijuana patients are permitted to buy up to five ounces per month, according to the DCP.

“We thought a quarter of an ounce [for retail sales] would be a reasonable number to hopefully avoid shortages but still allowing people to buy a reasonable amount,” Seagull said. “You could buy a few pre-rolled cigarettes and maybe an edible or some combination of different products.”

Those restrictions will later be reviewed as more of the state’s cannabis market comes online. Seagull said the agency needed time to assess the demand for the product and how it stacked up against the supply capabilities of the state’s cannabis producers.

“We’re going to continue evaluating how things play out as the market opens,” she said. “It’s really hard to know what the demand may look like on those first days.”

The Connecticut Medical Cannabis Council, an association of medicinal marijuana producers, released a statement Friday, promising to sustain the medical program while allowing supporting the launch of the commercial market.

“Patients and consumers can be confident that our products, which will be sold at the nine licensed hybrid retailers, are laboratory tested and labeled with detailed information about their content,” the group representing Advanced Grow Labs, CT Pharma, Curaleaf and Theraplant, said.

Although the DCP has called for weight limits per transactions, the agency will not be tracking how many transactions customers make at different dispensaries, she said.

Next month’s launch date comes after the state Social Equity Council on Tuesday voted to approve the last application by an existing medical marijuana producer to expand its operation into recreational sales. That approval met a threshold in state law requiring that a total of at least 250,000 square feet of growing and manufacturing space be approved before the start of retail sales.

The nine dispensaries that can begin selling recreational products on Jan. 10 include Affinity in New Haven, Bluepoint Wellness in Branford, Still River Wellness in Torrington, Fine Fettle Dispensary locations in Newington, Stamford, and Willimantic, The Botanist locations in Danbury and Montville, as well as Willow Brook Wellness in Meriden.

In crafting the recreational cannabis law, state lawmakers made considerable efforts to ensure the rollout of the new market benefited Connecticut communities negatively impacted by the war on drugs. Asked Friday about criticisms that wealthy out-of-state interests had gained a strong foothold in the initial market, state officials said that local equity applicants would continue to bring their businesses online throughout the coming year.

Nearly 100 applicants are still in the pipeline to launch Connecticut cannabis businesses. The DCP has already granted provisional licenses to 42 businesses and more than 80 applications have been approved from companies owned in part by social equity applicants, they said.

Andrea Comer, a deputy commissioner at the Consumer Protection Department who serves as chair of the state Social Equity Council, said she expected many of those equity-owned ventures to open their businesses soon after the launch of the initial market.

“When this law was passed, it was passed with the understanding that medical [and retail hybrid locations] would open first but there was a pretty significant fee for them to enter the market first and that’s going to fund the social program and the community reinvestment associated with it,” Comer said.