Attorney General William Tong displays an unregulated product containing THC found at Connecticut retailers Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

The state has begun lawsuits against five Connecticut retailers and sent warnings to 2,000 others after an investigation revealed widespread sale of unregulated and potentially dangerous THC products, Attorney General William Tong announced this week. 

Tong discussed the legal actions during a Thursday press conference in the lobby of his Hartford offices. An investigation of dozens of convenience stores as well as tobacco and vape shops found pervasive sale of unregulated products containing well over the legal limit of THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

These edible products, often referred to by the compound name, delta-8, are frequently sold in sophisticated packaging designed to resemble commonplace snacks like Fritos or Skittles. 

“We’re seeing delta 8 products being sold across the state,” Tong said. “Everywhere we went, to every vape shop that we visited and in gas stations as well.”

The products are generally derived from hemp, a type of cannabis used in a range of industrial and textile products. The federal government legalized its use under the 2018 Farm Bill, which   required that it contain less than 0.3% THC. 

Tong said officials believe the manufacturers of the illegal edible products found in Connecticut stores used unknown chemical solvents to elevate their THC levels far above that limit, making them potentially dangerous. 

Tong said the products were “scary” because their packaging was “youth-attracting.” He showed reporters some of the products his office found on retailer shelves. One of them appeared nearly identical to a small bag of Fritos corn chips. 

“This unlicensed product is six times the legal amount [of THC] that you could buy from a legal dispensary,” Tong said. “I’m just imagining my 11-year-old, if he happened upon this in our house, if it was lying around, he might think it’s Fritos. If an 11-year-old ingests this, they’re not going to stop at one… if they eat the whole bag, they are at dangerous risk of overdose.”

Although Connecticut legalized in 2021 the sale of cannabis products containing higher levels of THC, those products are regulated by the state Department of Consumer Protection and must be sold at one of the licensed dispensaries. Those dispensaries opened their doors to customers just last month.  

“It is illegal to sell a delta 8 product with 0.3% THC or more here in Connecticut. Period. Full stop,” Tong said. “If you’re selling those products, not only are you in violation of the law and you’re going to get a visit and potentially a lawsuit or enforcement action from us, you’re also subject to criminal penalties.” 

According to Tong’s office, the state has sued five retailers for carrying the products including AZ Smoke Shop and Wireless in Manchester, Reheem Mini Mart in Manchester, Smokers Paradise in East Hartford, 7 Puff in Enfield, and Anthony’s Service Station in Plainville.

Tong said he expected to initiate more enforcement action regarding delta 8 products, but he hoped retailers would voluntarily comply with the law. Anyone wishing to file a complaint regarding the sale of unregulated THC products can do so on the attorney general’s website.

“I think the problem, frankly, is that retailers are assuming that because we have a recreational and legal marijuana market… that they can do whatever they want,” Tong said. “The answer is ‘No you can’t do whatever you want and you can’t sell whatever you want. These are really dangerous, unlicensed products and who knows what you’re getting if you buy this.”

Last month, a group of Republican lawmakers announced a set of proposals they hoped to pass this year regarding cannabis in Connecticut including an explicit prohibition on the sale of THC products at gas stations. 

On Thursday, House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora released a statement commending Tong’s announcement. 

“We welcome Attorney General Tong’s voice and actions in this work, and we hope that a combined effort this legislative session will produce stronger guardrails around cannabis use and sales here in Connecticut.”