Two of Connecticut's state nicknames— the "Provisions State" and the "Land of Steady Habits"—feel like a setup for a joke about cannabis. But the fifth state in the country is serious about its nascent cannabis industry. Although Connecticut is better known for its preponderance of insurance companies and as the home of Mark Twain, the "Constitution State" is part of a rapid greening of the eastern seaboard and New England as medical and adult use cannabis markets open from New Jersey and New York to Vermont and Maine.
Is Cannabis Legal in Connecticut?
Both medical and adult-use cannabis are legal in Connecticut. The first recreational sales happened at nine formerly medical-only dispensaries on Jan. 10, 2023—the results of a decade-long process that started when Gov. Dannel Malloy signed decriminalization legislation in 2011 and medical sales went into effect in August 2014.
The journey to full legalization was fraught with challenges, including multiple failed bills. But in June 2021, Gov. Ned Lamont signed Senate Bill 1201, making it legal for adults 21 and older to possess and consume cannabis. With this move, Connecticut became the 19th state to fully legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis sales.
Beyond retail sales and personal use, Connecticut’s legislation permits adults to cultivate up to six cannabis plants within their homes. In December 2022, Lamont announced that more than 44,000 convictions for certain cannabis offenses would be automatically removed from offenders’ records.
The state’s cannabis regulatory office keeps a roster of active licensed retailers available for consumers.
Is it Legal to Market Cannabis in Connecticut?
Yes, but just like every other state, there are advertising restrictions and red tape. The state's Public Act 21-1 lays down strict rules for cannabis advertising. As in most states, the rules are centered primarily around public safety, honesty in advertising and preventing underage consumption.
Brands and services related to cannabis must avoid targeting individuals under 21 years of age. This extends to a broad range of marketing channels, from TV, radio, and the internet to outdoor billboards and print publications. Specific prohibitions also exist for advertising near schools, parks and transportation hubs.
Unlike in most legal adult-use states that require at least somewhere around 70% of an audience to be 21 years of age or older, cannabis companies in Connecticut must ensure that 90% of the audience are adults before advertising on any channel—including billboards and other public-facing signage.
And, of course, cannabis companies cannot make any medical claims unless the state has substantiated them.
How to Legally Market Cannabis Brands in Connecticut
While the restrictions are strict, they leave room for innovative and compliant marketing strategies. Brands can:
- Leverage Digital Platforms: Although there are restrictions on website advertising, brands can still maintain a digital presence, provided they verify the age of website users.
- Engage in Content Marketing: Through blogs, e-blasts, web copy and other informational content, brands can educate and engage their target audience.
- Host Age-Restricted Events: Brands can sponsor or be a part of events where 90% of the audience is expected to be 21 or older.
- Utilize In-Store Promotions: Retail locations can leverage in-store displays and promotions to engage their customers effectively.
- Collaborate with Licensed Retailers: Working closely with the licensed retailers in the state can provide brands a direct channel to their target demographic.
Dispensary Marketing in Connecticut
Connecticut’s entry into the recreational cannabis market saw nine medical marijuana operators expanding their businesses to cater to adults 21 and older. As more operators have ventured into this market, there exists a growing need for effective marketing strategies to differentiate and attract customers. Dispensaries can provide in-depth product education, loyalty programs and customer-centric services to stand out.
The Botanist, for example, which is owned by New York-based multistate operator Acreage Holdings, uses its website primarily as an educational tool.
With Connecticut's rich history and diverse demographic, cannabis brands and dispensaries have a unique opportunity. By embracing compliant marketing strategies and prioritizing consumer education, they can establish a robust presence in the state’s burgeoning cannabis market.
In-store events that capitalize on 4/20 marketing campaigns are always a good option.
Cannabis Brand Marketing in Connecticut
Connecticut’s nascent adult-use market has opened the door to brands looking to expand their footprint. However, with opportunity also comes challenges. The rules and guidelines governing cannabis marketing products and services in Connecticut aim to ensure that the promotion of cannabis is done responsibly.
Beyond some of the tactics previously mentioned, cannabis brands can dive into community engagement. The sector’s novelty provides a golden opportunity for brands to establish themselves as industry leaders through charitable work and other community-focused efforts. This is also good for the larger, burgeoning industry that must prove itself a socially responsible sector.
Hosting educational seminars, partnering with local businesses for events or supporting local community initiatives can go a long way in building brand trust and recognition.
Otherwise, practicing universal marketing best practices like targeting the right audience, crafting a compelling story, leveraging local influencers and putting some love into the packaging and presentation of a brand all pay dividends.
Top 10 Cannabis Brands in Connecticut
There are currently over 20 dispensaries across the Constitution State, and only a handful of owners—many well-funded MSOs. But there are a few local options. Here are the top 10 brands in Connecticut.