Norwich now has two cannabis breeders developing

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Norwich – The city’s aggressive marketing to attract cannabis cultivation and retail businesses has brought two proposed cannabis growers and two retail businesses to Norwich, but the opportunity to bring more growers to Norwich is shrinking.

City leaders recently learned that the area where cannabis growers could find an easier route to state licensing has shrunk dramatically to just two U.S. census districts, centered on Greeneville and downtown.

Norwich now has two cannabis cultivator manufacturers that have received local planning permission. CT Plant Based Compassionate Care LLC, in partnership with Sweetspot Brands LLC, announced on August 1 that it has received approval from the Connecticut Social Equity Council to construct a proposed 52,000 square foot cannabis cultivation facility at the former Mr. Big’s department store at Eighth Street in Greenville.

A second developer received a zoning permit from Norwich to construct a cannabis cultivation facility in the 30,000 square foot industrial building at 115 Forest St. on the west bank of the Yantic River. Andrew Simonow of East Hampton, who is listed as the applicant and general contractor on the development permit, could not be reached Thursday for comment.

The Forest Street proposal may have been jeopardized by new criteria established by the state Social Justice Council that removed a census area’s unemployment rate as a factor by which cannabis growers could receive an easier state licensing route. The amendment, which focused on criminal drug convictions, significantly reduced Norwich’s designated disproportionately affected areas.

Forest Street is now outside the new map of disproportionately affected areas approved by the Social Equity Council on Oct. 18.

The new card does not apply to cannabis retail outlets. The city has granted building permits to two retail cannabis businesses, both on West Main Street.

Kevin Brown, president of Norwich Community Development Corp., which leads the city’s cannabis marketing efforts, told the NCDC board on Thursday that since the Forest Street application was already pending, it would be allowed to proceed under the old 2021 rules .

But the city’s chances of attracting additional cannabis growers in the future are greatly reduced. The new map excludes prime locations with available land or former industrial buildings. According to Brown, cannabis growers are looking for buildings ranging from 30,000 to 150,000 square feet with room for expansion.

“And we just don’t have those kinds of facilities in this census precinct,” Brown said.

A prime area that the city is marketing to potential cannabis growers is the 33-acre former staff car park at Foxwoods Resort Casino at 80 Stonington Road-Route 2 in Norwich. The vacant lot, which is no longer in use, is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe. The property was included in the old map of Norwich disproportionately affected areas but is now off the map.

He also thanked city leaders for “leading the way” in cannabis marketing efforts. Had Norwich hesitated or enacted an initial moratorium to further explore the issue, the city may or may not have a farmer, as potential developers would have moved to cities with more sites available.

Brown said he hopes state legislatures can help restore the earlier criteria in the spring session, arguing that the unemployment rate should be considered as a factor because many people with drug convictions are struggling to find employment.

“Until we get some kind of legislative intervention, this map will end up shrinking,” Brown said.

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