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February 20, 2023 / 2023 Power 50

2023 Power 50: 47. Kennard Ray & Tiana Hercules

HBJ PHOTO | SKYLER FRAZER Kennard Ray and Tiana Hercules will each be debuting their own separate cannabis business ventures in 2023.

With the state’s adult-use cannabis industry still in its infancy, dozens of entrepreneurs are hoping to carve out a piece of the multimillion-dollar sector through new businesses such as retail stores, grow operations, delivery companies and product packagers.

The state has already approved provisional licenses — a key step in opening a cannabis business — for more than 40 new recreational marijuana cultivators, retailers and other operators that have 14 months to get their companies off the ground. Among the first social equity cannabis entrepreneurs planning to open new businesses this year are Hartford residents Kennard Ray and Tiana Hercules.

Partnering with local dispensary chain Fine Fettle, Ray’s company — FFD 149 — recently won local approvals to open a 45,600-square-foot social equity cultivator facility in Bloomfield at 10 Mosey Drive. In addition, Ray and Fine Fettle plan to open six equity joint venture adult-use retail stores.

Ray’s cultivation business isn’t up and running yet, but his company’s equity joint venture dispensary in Manchester — to be located at 91 Hale Road — should be ready to debut early this year.

Ray is active in the local Hartford community. After spending some time in prison when he was younger for drug- and gun-related convictions, Ray founded and became co-director of the Full Citizens Coalition, an organization committed to civic engagement and restoring voting rights to ex-felons and convicts. He’s also CEO of Earth Strong Naturals LLC, a Hartford-based tobacco leaf company.

Hercules, who is on the Hartford City Council, is partnering with Florida-based multistate cannabis operator Ayr Wellness and has plans to open a large-scale social equity cultivation facility with more than 15,000 square feet of grow space. The endeavor, Connecticut Cultivation Solutions, will be Ayr Wellness’ first Connecticut operation. Hercules said she’s still finalizing a location for the marijuana grow operation she hopes to open in Greater Hartford.
Hercules is a criminal defense lawyer who earned her degree from the UConn School of Law. She also has an MBA from UConn. She was appointed to the Hartford City Council in late 2021 as a member of the Working Families Party.

Find out who else is in the 2023 Power 50.

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