Stratford approves Cannabis production facility, snack-maker in boost to adult-use industry

Stratford approves cannabis production facility, snack-maker in boost to adult-use industry

In a boost to the local adult-use cannabis industry, town officials have approved plans from two companies to open separate facilities to grow the product and make THC-infused snacks and drinks.  

The Stratford Zoning Commission voted unanimously this week to authorize the respective projects from Shangri-La, a Missouri-based business aiming to expand into the state, and the newly formed local company Lorrain's CT. 

The commission also agreed to update the town’s cannabis regulations to allow a wide-range of new marijuana-related business beyond dispensaries and production facilities, including food makers and delivery services. 

Officials hope the decision to allow more cannabis businesses, which comes nearly a year and a half after the commission voted to welcome the nascent adult-use industry into the town, will help grow the local economy and generate tax revenue.  

“In an ultra competitive economic climate, the town should consider welcoming these non-retail businesses that support the cannabis industry throughout the state, while other municipalities are figuring out the positions of the matter,”  Planning & Zoning Administrator Jay Habansky wrote in a memo to the five-member panel.  

As a part of an ambitious effort to enter the state market, Shangri-La is planning to outfit a 40,000 square-foot building at 305 Hathaway Drive to grow cannabis, according to an application submitted to the town. 

Shangri-La officials have said the company plans to ship the product to dispensaries across the state, including a retail store the company is building in Norwalk. The production facility, which will not offer retail sales, is expected to employ around 130 workers.    

The project “will result in significant jobs, additional significant sales tax income to the town as a result of the cannabis sales tax formula … and the reuse of the currently unoccupied facility,” Barry Knott, an attorney representing both companies, told the commission.   

Zachary Mecier, a Shangri-La official, said the company plans to reduce the odor associated with growing large amounts of cannabis by installing an air filtration system or by relying on a method that will prevent air from escaping from the building. 

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you it's not a concern. It is a legitimate concern,” Mecier said of the potential odor. “But we are going to address it. It's part of being a good neighbor and it's part of what the state authorizes in order for us to get and maintain a license.”  

Meanwhile, Lorrain's CT, which is operated by Zayna Francis, will open a modest 3,700 square-foot manufacturing facility in an old brewery at 724 Honeyspot Road. Knott said the company plans to bake cannabis edibles, make THC-infused beverages and create other snacks mixed with marijuana such as gummies.

“All of these products will be sold on a wholesale basis,” Knott said. “No retail sales will take place at this location. No customers will come to this location.” 

A floor plan filed with the town shows the center will feature a kitchen with multiple ovens, walk-in fridge and freezer, a laboratory to develop new products and several rooms to package the items. The single-story brick warehouse was previously home to Fairfield Craft Ales, a brewery that opened in 2016 but closed last fall. 

In addition to proposing the manufacturing center, Lorrain's officials successfully sought to tweak the town’s zoning regulations to loosen the cap on the number of local cannabis facilities that do not directly sell or grow marijuana. 

Under the previous rules, only up to two cannabis dispensaries and two production facilities were allowed within certain zones within the town limits. The change retains the cap on those facilities but places no limits on the number of businesses dedicated to manufacturing, packing and delivering, but not directly selling or growing, cannabis products. 

Since the recreational market launched in January, customers have spent nearly $69 million on cannabis products across Connecticut, according to the state Department of Consumer Protection. Edible cannabis products made up about 10 percent of those sales, the data shows. 

An adult-use retail facility has not yet opened in Stratford. The Chicago-based company Verano Holdings had been approved to open a dispensary in a building on Stratford Avenue but is no longer moving forward with the project due to a mixup involving the current tenant’s lease.

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