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July 20, 2022

Hartford City Councilwoman Hercules among 16 moving forward for cannabis cultivator licensing

HBJ FILE PHOTO Tiana Hercules at an event in Hartford.

Hartford City Councilwoman Tiana Hercules is one of 16 would-be cannabis entrepreneurs approved by the Social Equity Council last week, advancing her hopes to open Connecticut Cultivation Solutions in or near the capital city.

Hercules and 15 others had their disproportionately impacted area cultivator social equity status approved last week and now await background check reviews by the state Department of Consumer Protection. Forty-one total applications were received and reviewed by third party firm CohnReznick.

Hercules had previously submitted a social equity lottery application for her prospective cannabis dispensary Lady Jane, but said she wanted to pursue a DIA cultivator license after seeing how the process was playing out.

“Once I started to see the number of applications coming in and the resources by which someone had to have just to be able to have a statistical like chance … that just started to seem less and less like an equitable process, so the cultivation opportunity was brought to me,” Hercules said.

The state has identified specific zones for disproportionately impacted area cultivators to grow legal cannabis.

Hercules said DIA cultivators have the potential to create many job opportunities in targeted cities — including Hartford — and can grow their businesses more than some other licensing types. She said that through equity joint ventures, she could still potentially open Lady Jane as a vertically integrated company along with her grow facility.

“It just seemed like it made more sense, both statistically and the opportunity potential just seemed to be greater,” Hercules said.

Hercules is partnering with Florida-based multi-state cannabis operator Ayr Wellness, which would be that company’s first operation in Connecticut. Hercules said Ayr’s commitment to social equity initiatives and commitment to areas in which they locate made it an attractive partner.

“They try to set a footprint on the community side of things — that showed me they were doing things a little bit differently than some of the other MSOs and really doing things intentionally in the places they go,” Hercules said.

DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said the DCP will now review background checks for those 16 applicants and their backers, who will then pay fees for provisional licenses. The background checks are conducted by a third-party company in a process expected to take several weeks.

Once that’s done, 14-month provisional licenses will be awarded. A final license will be issued following the provisional period.

Under last year’s cannabis legalization law, DIA cultivator provisional licenses are granted only after the SEC verifies the applicant meets social equity applicant criteria, passes a criminal background check, and pays $3 million into the Social Equity and Innovation Fund. 

That fund will go to social equity applicants for access to capital, technical assistance for the startup and operation of a business, and funding for workforce education and community investments.

In addition to Hercules’ Connecticut Cultivation Solutions, the other DIA cultivator LLCs moving forward are:

  • The Cannabis Garden by Daniel Czyzewski in Newington
  • Connecticut Social Equity by Linares Faye and Van Scoy in Southington
  • CT Plant Based Compassionate Care by John O'Leary and Benjamin Herbst in Stamford
  • FFD 149 by Kennard Ray in Hartford
  • The Flower House by Ann Marino, Chad Simard and Christopher Perotti in Middletown
  • FRC Holdings by Mark Christie in Hartford
  • Impact Initiatives by Vinny Mangiacopra in Norwalk
  • Insa CT by Clara Jackson in Bloomfield
  • MariMed CTP by Robert Fireman and Daniel Maldonando in West Hartford
  • Nova Farms Connecticut by an unidentified person in New Britain
  • Quinnipiac Valley Growth Partners by Gerald Farrell Jr. in Wallingford
  • River Growers CT by Arlanda Brantley and Leland O'Connor in Waterbury
  • Shangri-La Dispensary by Kepal Patel and Jocelyn Cerda in Hartford
  • Soulstar CT by Denisha Moktan in Bridgeport
  • The Yard Connecticut by Christina Visco with no Connecticut address

Not all approved applications list Connecticut residencies or business addresses, according to information from the state's business search database.

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