Earlier this year, Connecticut drew up a bill proposal to ban cannabis gifting and charge offenders up to $10,000. But, immediately after the proposal hit the news, it was faced with many criticisms with advocates hoping the bill won't be enacted.
Unfortunately, the governor of Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont, in the last week of May, signed into law the reform bill that bans cannabis gifting. Not just that, but another bill was also signed into law to regulate cannabis advertising within the state.
The Genesis of the Bill
Earlier this year, in February, to be precise, the General Assembly of Connecticut brought forward Bill No. 5329. The bill was proposed to deal with the loopholes of cannabis gifting. New York recently stepped up to ban cananbis gifting as well.
On the 8th of March, 2022, a meeting was held by the General Law committee on the bill which would see offenders face a fine of $10,000 for gisting cannabis. At the meeting, cannabis advocates shared their concerns on why the bill shouldn't be enacted. California cannabis gifting has been an issue since the 2016 election that legalized recreational marijuana in the state.
Connecticut is one the other newest states to legalize recreational use of cannabis with Governor Ned Lamont passing the bill into law in 2021. Following the roadmap, recreational cannabis sales us expected to kick off within the state towards the end of the year.
But with the proposed bill, cannabis advocates claim it is an attempt to re-criminalize marijuana before its legalization even kicks off. According to the text in the bill, no individual shall sell, transfer or gift marijuana to another individual. The bill also states that marijuana shall not be swapped as a donation, via giveaways, or as access to an event or at any locale outside of a licensed marijuana dispensary.
Duncan Markovich, a cannabis business owner who was present at the meeting aired his skepticism about the bill. He affirmed that some of the terms used in the bill would in fact re-criminalize cannabis, setting the industry's progress backward. He went on to say that the citizens of Connecticut and active members of the cannabis culture and community, advocates, and the entire industry cannot use such language around cannabis.
Legislation a law that Douglas the gifting of cannabis and cannabis products be it medicine to friends and family members or strangers is unethical, unimaginable, and shameful. Duncan also contended that giving out cannabis should be on the same pedestal as giving out produce from one's garden.
Justin Welch, another advocate present at the meeting and a member of the New England Craft Cannabis Alliance, made known his resistance to the bill. He claimed that for a very long time now, good people have been prosecuted for possessing and using cannabis. He acclaimed that the local marijuana community present in Connecticut will continue to grow stronger once the bill is passed it not. He concluded that practical policies in cannabis need to be brought forward to regulate the cannabis community.
Regardless, there's a definite disparity between gifting marijuana to loved ones or friends and gifting it with a differently purchased item. For instance, the gifting implied in the bill is seen in the High Bazaar event which took place in Hamden, Connecticut. The event hosted about 1,200 visitors to experience live music and try out local vendors. Reports from the New Haven Register indicated that a referendum put an end to the High Bazaar event due to not having adequate permits.
Michael D’Agostino, a representative of Hamden at the meeting took his time to explain the concept of gifting referred to in the bill. The bill is not against personal cannabis gifting, instead, it is to prevent gifting on a large scale. The committee using such language intended to turn to retail hosting events that have become popular in the state. In his assertions, D’Agostino claims that the bill is just an end-run around the transaction process and permitting that were established via the cannabis laws.
As it stands, the bill has been enacted following a signature from Gov. Ned Lamont, although some effective changes were made.
Regarding if the High Bazaar will continue its events in the near future, no confirmation of that effect has been announced. Although, the mayor's office in Hamden would look for a new location to operate very soon. The chief of staff of Mayor Lauren Garret, Sean Grace, said that the present administration is in support of cannabis-related businesses and organizations. Hamden is opening arms to High Baazaar but the issue with hosting such an event is the safety concerns. She believes the events are profitable and successful hence they attract late numbers of people, so there's a need to get the venue right.
Enacting the Bill
On the 24th of May, 2022, Gov. Ned Lamon signed into law Bill No. 5329, banning the gifting of cannabis in exchange for indirect payment or donations. However, different from the initially proposed $10,000 fine against offenders, it was eventually reviewed to a maximum of $1,000 fines for offenders. The law explicitly defined that individuals can share cannabis with friends, families, and strangers provided the exchange isn't transactional.
The governor also signed into law another bill to regulate cannabis marketing and advertising in the state. The bill restricts cannabis ads within 1,500 yards of churches and schools and also prohibits billboard advertisement by unlicensed cannabis firms in the state. The legislation only authorizes cannabis-related adverts between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am in order to limit children's exposure to cannabis.
It can be said that the government of Connecticut has done due diligence in trying to navigate through various cannabis legislation to be at this juncture. While the state allows for adult and medical use of cannabis, it also thrives to help protect minors from cannabis exposure while carefully marketing the cannabis industry to adults.
Adults in Connecticut can possess a maximum of 5 ounces of cannabis in private and a maximum of 1.5 ounces in public. As things are, medical cannabis dispensaries will be the first to be licensed to sell cannabis to adults absent of medical prescription. Although recreational cannabis sales are also expected to kick off by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, patients with doctor's prescriptions are allowed to cultivate their cannabis in their home gardens from the 1st of October 2021.