Some Cannabis laws in Connecticut could change this year

Some Cannabis laws in Connecticut could change this year

The road to legal cannabis in Connecticut has been a long one. 

Medical use of cannabis was legalized more than a decade ago, in 2012. Recreational use of cannabis became legal in 2021. The first legal recreational cannabis retailers opened their doors one year ago.

This year, once again, Connecticut legislators are mulling changes to the state’s cannabis laws, though state Sen. James Maroney, D-Milford, co-chairman of the legislature’s general law committee, called them “small tweaks” to state statute. 

“Like any major program, you're always going to have tweaks,” Maroney said, though he expects more questions to arise as “people come testify to us about other issues we haven't even considered.”

More cultivators

In an effort to increase the number of cannabis cultivators, Maroney said state officials are considering ways to streamline the licensing process.

There are currently only six cannabis cultivators in the state with products on shelves, though 28 were approved in 2022 by the state’s cannabis Social Equity Council.

Of those DIA cultivators – cannabis growers with operations that fall inside areas of the state disproportionately affected by the war on drugs – 11 paid the $3 million license fee and only one has been granted a final license and has been producing cannabis.

“There are 15 who haven't been able to exercise their licenses yet because they haven't raised the funds for whatever reason and so we do want to look at creating some options and ways for them to get up and running,” Maroney said.

Among the options being considered is allowing the conversion from a cultivator to a micro-cultivator, a designation reserved for those with grow space between 2,000 square feet and 10,000 square feet.

“It would likely be that there would be some form of like a conversion fee to allow people to convert from the cultivator over to a micro-cultivator and when we'll have to hear it through the through the hearing process to see what would make the most sense to get that input on how best to do that,” Maroney said.

THC seltzers

State legislators, Maroney said, would like cannabis products that contain THC – the compound in marijuana that produces the high – to be restricted to licensed cannabis retailers and dispensaries.

Currently, products that have been derived from hemp and contain low concentrations of THC per serving, such as THC-infused seltzers, are unregulated. Maroney and his co-chairman, state Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said legislators are looking for ways to close that loophole. 

“One thing I'm looking very seriously at is a .5 milligram per package definition for high THC products, so anything above that has got to be in our stores,” D’Agostino said, with the goal being to get cannabis products “out of the bodegas out of the liquor stores into the regulated stores where we do exercise some level of control.”

“This is all constantly evolving,” he said. “There's a whole span of products out there that are not subject to our own internal seed-to-sale and regulatory processes. Right now, our concern is making sure that they are only sold in our regulated stores, where we can control any further review or regulation of the products themselves.”

DIA changes

Maroney said the legislature may consider changing how cultivators in areas disproportionately impacted by the drug war, called DIAs, can grow cannabis.

Currently, such cultivators may only grow cannabis outdoors within a DIA. Maroney said a bill last year, which might be reconsidered this year, may allow an outdoor cultivation site in any town that contains a DIA, “not just within a DIA.”

In addition, the state could designate state-recognized tribal areas as DIAs, so more outdoor cultivation facilities can be set up.

When the law allowing recreational cannabis cultivation was initially passed, DIA cultivators approved by the state’s Social Equity Council had 14 months after approval to pay the $3 million license fee. That deadline was removed last year, but Maroney said the legislature is considering reinstating it. 

“We would like to make it possible for people, and give them other options to raise that money so that they can get their businesses up and running,” he said “But then, one of the trade-offs may be looking at putting some form of a deadline on when they can do so.”

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Region: Connecticut

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