The Connecticut Senate gave final approval Wednesday to legislation designed to prohibit pop-up events known as cannabis bazaars and restrict advertisements for the recently-legalized substance.
The Senate followed the House in approving the bill, which passed in a mid-afternoon 22 – 13 vote, sending it to the governor.
The bill includes several adjustments to the cannabis legalization law which the legislature passed last year including an attempt to eliminate cannabis bazaars, events where attendees can purchase the recently-legalized substance not yet available for commercial sales.
“It’s closing a loophole in the law that has been exploited by others to be allowed to sell in an unregulated market a regulated product in the state of Connecticut. So that is a fix that I think should be embraced by everyone,” Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, said during the debate.
Legislators have argued the barter events circumvent both the regulations and the tax revenue expected under the carefully crafted law. But the efforts to curb the bazaars prompted opposition from cannabis advocates who worried they would be penalized for gifting the substance to friends and family. The bill was modified as a result, removing criminal penalties included in earlier versions of the bill.
Sen. James Maroney, a Milford Democrat who co-chairs the General Law Committee, said the bill’s primary goal was to protect the public by requiring cannabis sales to be conducted through the state’s regulated market.
“I think that the regulation is what does the best to ensure the health, safety and welfare of those residents of the state of Connecticut,” Maroney said.
The legislation also attempts to restrict where and when cannabis can be marketed in Connecticut. It prohibits advertisements within 1,500 yards of a school or church and attempts to stop out-of-state advertisements by prohibiting ads from businesses not legally allowed to sell the product in the state.
“We were concerned about advertisements because we know how impressionable young minds are,” Witkos said. “They hear stuff on TV, they’re online all the time.”
Sen. Dan Champagne, R-Vernon, said the legislation did not go far enough and should have included more restrictions on where cannabis can be sold when the state’s commercial market is eventually launched.
“We should have put in to make sure that none of these marijuana shops are anywhere near our schools,” Champagne said.