A startup company hoping to cultivate medical cannabis in Connecticut recently received approval from local officials to set up shop in the city of Middletown, assuming it wins an MMJ business license from the state.
While that in itself is notable – just one other town in Connecticut has approved plans for a medical marijuana operation so far – another aspect of the development has piqued the interest of the national cannabis industry.
The company, Greenbelt Management, won approval not just to operate in Middletown, but also to cultivate medical marijuana in a building owned by the city.
This appears to be a first for the industry, though it’s difficult to verify. Even if other cities have leased out buildings to medical marijuana grow sites, Greenbelt is certainly in extremely rare company. Many cities are wary of cannabis companies and in some cases go out of their way to create an unfriendly environment.
Other upstart medical marijuana businesses in Connecticut and elsewhere might want to take a page from Greenbelt’s playbook. The company went out of its way to ensure it had local support from city officials and the community at large by meeting with key stakeholders. It also handed out an extensive, detailed plan of its operations – including security measures – to every City Council member.
The result: Greenbelt was able to ensure Middletown officials are on board with its plan. That will create a relatively favorable, and hopefully stable, business climate for Greenbelt or any other cannabis business that eventually opens in Middletown.
“It’s the best form of local approval imaginable,” said Kayvan Khalatbari, co-owner of Denver Relief Consulting, which is helping Greenbelt navigate the application process and start its operation. “In newer (MMJ) states you need some type of proof that the jurisdiction is OK with you being there. That can be tough in Connecticut, where you have a lot of towns that are fairly conservative when it comes to this, and the industry is new to everyone. It is very hard to talk municipalities into allowing these businesses to come in.”
Additionally, it provides even more validation for medical marijuana in general, and it could pave the way for other cities in Connecticut or elsewhere to lease out their buildings to MMJ operations as well.
The development also highlights the benefits of having strict regulations on the medical marijuana industry. Most states that have legalized medical marijuana in recent years incorporate stringent rules that cap the number of MMJ operations, require dispensaries and growing sites to receive state approval and limit the market to serious business professionals. In Connecticut, for instance, cultivation site applicants must put $2 million in escrow and pay a $25,000 fee just to apply, and only pharmacists can dispense medical cannabis.
These types of regulations can assuage the fears local communities have about the industry and the people behind MMJ businesses.
“I think this really speaks to the front-end barriers that they put in place in Connecticut,” Khalatbari said. “It shows that legitimate businesspeople are getting involved in this industry, and for that reason the local government was comfortable enough to lease out its building.”
The building includes a variety of businesses, including two breweries, a high-end coffee provider and an organic vegetable delivery service, not to mention a gym for police officers.
Greenbelt’s plan calls for production of up to 65 pounds of medical marijuana a month and seven full-time employees, according to the Hartford Courant. If it receives state approval, the company reportedly will pay $60,000 a year – in addition to a $25,000 deposit – to lease the 15,000-square-foot space.
Under Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, between three and 10 growing operations and an undetermined number of dispensaries will be licensed by the state. Connecticut hopes to begin issuing licenses later this year, and the first grow operations could open in the first half of 2014. Roughly 450 patients have registered with the state for MMJ cards so far.