Credit: Christine Stuart photo

New rules on gifting cannabis in Connecticut went into effect Tuesday after the governor signed a bill aimed at curtailing the unregulated sales of the substance as well as restricting how it can be advertised within the state.

Legislation modifying the state’s cannabis laws was among 48 bills which Gov. Ned Lamont signed Tuesday. Proponents in the legislature described the bill as closing a loophole that had been exploited in order to sell the recently-legalized product at off-the-book events known as cannabis bazaars which have cropped up around the state.

“It’s where people go in, they pay a cover charge or they can buy a t-shirt and get an ounce of cannabis,” Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said during a House debate last month. “It’s a barter system, a barter exchange marketplace that’s set up and it’s caused by a loophole in our laws that allows the gifting of cannabis.”

The new law immediately prohibits residents from gifting the plant to another person in exchange for any kind of donation or indirect payment. It allows towns to levy up to $1,000 in fines against people who violate the new rules.

Responding to pushback from state cannabis advocates, lawmakers crafted the policy so it explicitly does not prohibit residents from giving cannabis to their friends and family so long as the exchange is not transactional in nature.

Among the other provisions of the new law are restrictions on billboard advertisements for cannabis, which will go into effect in July. 

It bars cannabis ads within 1,500 yards of a school or church and attempts to stop out-of-state advertisements by prohibiting billboards from businesses not legally allowed to sell the product in the state. The law also limits when billboard ads for the product can be displayed, restricting ads featuring a cannabis plan to between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. in an effort to reduce exposure to children.

The bill, particularly its provisions on gifting, was the subject of a fair amount of opposition from residents who worried it was a step towards re-criminalizing a substance that had only just been legalized last year. Opponents protested outside the state Capitol during the legislative session and testified during public hearings. Several offered testimony defending the cannabis bazaars, which the bill has effectively prohibited. 

“You should go to one, sir,” resident Susan Wynne told a Republican lawmaker during a March hearing.

“[B]ecause it is a wonderful community. It is white, Black, Latino, everybody getting along, sharing recipes, arts and crafts, glass-blowing. It is a community of love and they made me want to live again.”