With cannabis now commercially available in Connecticut, House Republicans called Tuesday for a series of additional restrictions on the substance including THC caps on certain products, limitations on where it can be consumed and a ban on edible cannabis.
During a Tuesday morning press conference, House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora and members of his caucus outlined the provisions of their cannabis regulation proposal, which has been filed in the General Law Committee.
“I think people are now realizing that it is no joking matter what we have seen starting to come out of the commercialization of marijuana and we would just like to bring a sober view of this,” Candelora said. “This is hitting all of Connecticut.”
The Republican proposals included provisions like more stringent packaging requirements. For instance, they called for a mandate that cannabis be packaged in child-proof containers and for labels warning of the risks related to the substance.
Another section of the bill would explicitly prohibit any products containing THC from being sold in gas stations and restrict cannabis consumption anywhere alcohol consumption is currently banned. The bill would also create a yet-to-be-determined cap on the amount of THC that can be present in a single serving of a cannabis product.
As it’s currently written, the bill would also ban the sale of edible cannabis products. While that proposal is unlikely to pass, supporters said they wanted to start a dialogue on the subject.
“At least we’re going to have a conversation about edibles,” Rep. David Rutigliano, a Trumbull legislator who serves as the ranking Republican on the General Law Committee, said.
Rutigliano objected to edibles where a single serving may be a fraction of a unit. For instance, one gummy may contain four doses.
“This is ripe for abuse and people getting sick and trips to the emergency room,” he said. “It should be single-serve. The dose should be the actual gummy, not a quarter of the gummy — an ear, a foot.”
In an interview Tuesday, Rep. Mike D’Agostino, a Hamden Democrat who serves as co-chair of the General Law Committee, said that while he did not expect his committee to ban edible cannabis products, the panel was open to an ongoing discussion on how best to regulate cannabis in Connecticut. In fact, he said he expects to consider similar proposals every year for the foreseeable future.
“Remember, it’s been almost a hundred years since prohibition was repealed and to this day, we are still changing and updating our liquor laws. I expect it to be the same with cannabis,” D’Agostino said. “We’re also just three weeks into sales so we’re still gathering information about how the process works and what improvements can be made.”
D’Agostino said elements of the Republican proposal will likely find supporters on both sides of the political aisle. For instance, lawmakers from both parties may be amenable to putting limits on the THC content of cannabis vaping products and backing more aggressive enforcement related to removing THC products from convenience stores, he said.
“They’re all going to get vetted and I think a number of [GOP proposals] will make it into the final bill,” D’Agostino said. “That said, I think there is a little bit of a divergence between the two caucuses on the overall landscape here. We don’t want to stifle it so much that we strangle a new industry and keep it from getting off the ground.”
During the Republican press conference, Candelora also suggested the legislature revisit an element of the law legalizing cannabis. Candelora called for giving police more flexibility to stop motorists who appear to be consuming cannabis.
“Not only did they make marijuana more accessible to individuals but they’re also saying to law enforcement, ‘Don’t pull them over if they’re doing drugs while they’re driving,” Candelora said. “It makes no sense whatsoever and we would like that restored so police officers can enforce the law and begin to do searches and get the bad actors off the road.”
Like D’Agostino, Sen. Gary Winfield, a New Haven Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, said there will be more opportunities to have conversations about improving the cannabis law. However, he said police already had the tools to deal with intoxicated drivers.
“If I see you driving by with a cigarette of some sort in your hand, how do I know it’s cannabis?” Winfield said. “If you’re not able to operate the car and you are swerving or something, they can pull you over… If you’re intoxicated and you’re swerving or doing something to indicate that you’re impaired — you can be pulled over. Do I need to see you with a bottle of beer in your hand to know you can’t drive a car? No.”