WESTPORT — Franny’s of Westport is moving as it looks to expand into Connecticut’s newly legalized recreational marijuana market — something Westport doesn’t allow.
The hemp wellness store’s last day at 31 Church Lane is scheduled for Dec. 31, before reopening Jan. 4 just a few hundred feet away at 33 Elm Street, unit 2. The store’s Facebook page will remain up and people can also still order online during the shutdown.
“We’re in pursuit to continue building our brand while making Franny’s a household name,” said Griff Conti, the owner and operator of Franny’s of Westport. “If we didn’t go after this opportunity we’d be doing a great disservice to our loyal customers and community at large as we seek to educate and advocate for all things cannabis.”
He said the move is temporary and the new location will allow flexibility to move forward on the store’s long-term plan, including joining Connecticut’s new legal THC market for adult recreational use. It also lets the store stay in Westport and continue to serve the community.
A state law went into effect in July, legalizing the possession and use of recreational marijuana for adults. The law opens the door to retail sales as soon as next year, with municipalities deciding how to zone for it, if at all. The state will issue the licenses to actually be allowed to sell it, not the towns.
The Westport Planning and Zoning Commission passed a prohibition in September on all businesses related to adult-use marijuana, including the storage and sale of it. The ban came after a long public hearing.
Traffic and a lack of details from the state were the big drivers for the decision, said Danielle Dobin, chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“It seemed early to be zoning for a use when the state hasn’t caught up to where it’s going to be allocating the licenses yet,” she said.
She said the surrounding communities put a moratorium or some form of prohibition on recreational dispensaries and expects having one in downtown Westport would exacerbate the town’s current traffic issues, especially with a lot of residents still working from home. She said the traffic for it would likely be similar to the drive-thru at Starbucks or Norwalk’s Chick-fil-A.
“We’re trying to be sensitive to that,” Dobin said.
She said there also wasn’t a lot of information from the state yet on how many licenses would be awarded, who would receive them and whether the towns could select which businesses would open. She said there needed to be more from the state on the equity piece of who gets the licenses and ensuring the communities actually affected by marijuana over the years would get the revenue from it.
Conti said Westport’s recreational prohibition and the state banning Franny’s top selling, hemp derived Delta-8 caused them to move to a month-to-month location while they wait to hear if they’re one of the businesses selected in the state lottery process to receive a THC license.
“If a license is awarded, we would need to leave Westport altogether and would target areas like Norwalk and Bridgeport, where I was born and raised, in addition to our social equity applicant who was born and raised in Bridgeport and (is) a current employee at Franny’s of Westport,” he said. “Franny’s hemp CBD/wellness business will remain unchanged and be part of, in a separate location, the expansion plans in Connecticut.”
Franny’s opened in Westport in June of 2020 and was able to step away from the current five-year lease three years early, he said.
Conti said the long-term plan is to support cannabis in all forms and advocate for its legalization. He also wants to offer Franny’s Farmacy’s family of products, which go beyond hemp wellness and includes adult-use cannabis, as well as expand their seed-to-shelf operation and footprint.
“It is apparent that this country is moving towards federal legalization of cannabis,” he said. “We don’t know the details of how and when, but the Franny’s family of brands will be positioning ourselves to be leaders in this transition and in that new era where cannabis will be common, in all forms.”
There are 14 Franny’s Farmacy locations nationally with one in Connecticut. Franny’s Farmacy provides hemp that is grown and produced in Asheville, N.C. to customers in all 50 states, according to the company.
Dobin said the prohibition can be revisited at any time and lifted by a majority of the commission. She doesn’t expect it to happen any time soon though without a change in traffic patterns and more information from the state.
But she said it could happen in several years if those other things happen.
Westport is already home to a medical marijuana dispensary, which has been there for about three years.
“It has operated without incident and is very positive for the community,” Dobin said.
She said the current prohibition is working as it should and understood Franny’s plans to move if it gets a license.
“We wish them the best of luck and, who knows, maybe at one point in time the law might change and accommodate what they want to do and they might be back in Westport,” Dobin said.