The first of six social equity joint ventures backed by multistate operator Verano Holdings (CSE: VRNO) (OTCQX: VRNOF) has opened in Connecticut, doing business under the MSO’s umbrella retail brand Zen Leaf.
The new shop, which opened in Norwich last month, will sell both medical and recreational marijuana and is at least 50% owned by a qualified social equity applicant who was directly harmed by cannabis prohibition, The Hour reported.
The state social equity program allows for such licensees to partner with larger companies like Verano, and the MSO plans to take full advantage of the opportunity to open a half dozen new storefronts around Connecticut, the company confirmed to The Hour. All six will operate under the Zen Leaf brand.
“Those are the folks that the state decided to try to target to empower through this program,” James Leventis, Verano’s vice president for legal, regulatory, and government affairs, told The Hour. “We recognize that cannabis as an industry in general has disadvantaged certain people, and the industry as a whole has been very good to us. This is all we do here.”
It’s unclear yet when the next five will open, Leventis said.
Verano already had two medical marijuana dispensaries in the Connecticut towns of Meriden and Waterbury, meaning it will eventually have eight shops in the state.
The Hour didn’t report who the social equity licensee is or what role that individual will play in the Zen Leaf operations going forward.
Some industry stakeholders have criticized the Connecticut social equity program for allowing business permits to be controlled by large companies such as Verano, Green Thumb Industries, Acreage Holdings, and Curaleaf instead of going solely to entrepreneurs affected by the drug war.