The House voted Tuesday to prohibit the sale of synthetic THC and high-potency products which have been available outside of Connecticut’s regulated cannabis marketplace as a result of provision in federal law.
The bill also contains limits on how much THC can be included in a single container and requirements that cannabis products include health and safety labeling. The House sent the proposal to the Senate on a 148 – 1 vote Tuesday afternoon. Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Granby, cast the only vote in opposition.
Tuesday’s action is the latest in the state’s ongoing effort to adapt its 2021 commercial cannabis law to an evolving landscape of both state and federal rules. In this case, the state’s carefully regulated cannabis dispensaries have been circumvented by gas stations and CBD shops across Connecticut, which have used a federal farm law to sell potent THC products.
During an afternoon press briefing, Rep. Mike D’Agostino, a Hamden Democrat who co-chairs the General Law Committee, held out a small, red gummy square, which he said was more potent than those sold in dispensaries.
“These are gummies that anyone can purchase right now in the state of Connecticut — no age limit that are not individually packaged and one of these — one of these — has almost double the milligrams of THC that you can buy in our regulated stores,” he said. “That’s a problem, folks.”
D’Agostino said the federal rules, which allowed hemp-based products to be sold under what’s called a dry-weight basis, created an opportunity to sell THC products wide enough to “drive a truck through.”
The bill supplants those rules with stark THC limits. Under the proposal, CBD stores would be restricted to selling edible products with no more than 1 milligram per serving and no more than 5 milligrams per package. Different THC limits would apply to tinctures and lotions but in each case, the new limits would fall well below products available in regulated dispensaries.
The proposal was backed by the chamber’s minority Republican caucus, which had been pressing for additional cannabis regulations all session. Rep. David Rutigliano, a Trumbull legislator who serves as the ranking Republican on the General Law Committee, told reporters the bill was a bipartisan compromise that would increase safeguards for children who accidentally ingest THC products.
“I’ve heard from constituents concerned about the poisoning of young children that really happens from gas stations and other outlets that are selling things that they really shouldn’t sell,” Rutigliano said. “These things, in my opinion, should be limited to somebody who has a license to sell marijuana and not appear in a local gas station.”
Proponents of the bill acknowledged the changes would negatively impact CBD stores, which had been following the law. D’Agostino stressed that the CBD stores selling the products were not criminals.
“They are in what’s a legal marketplace and we are taking products off their shelves. I want to be fair about this,” he said. “This will harm some of those businesses and what they sell and we’ve struggled with that mightily and you will hear some of that in the debate. I don’t know what else to do about it because… to us, the regulated scheme, the public safety issues outweigh those concerns.”
Anderson, the chamber’s only “no” vote, proposed an unsuccessful amendment which would have scaled back some of the restrictions on CBD products to allow local hemp farmers to continue selling certain plant-based products.
“There are thousands, even millions of people who rely on full-spectrum hemp products for health benefits that they perceive,” Anderson said, adding that studies of both CBD and THC are ongoing. “In the meantime, people should be free to seek natural remedies that are not harmful or intoxicating.”
The amendment failed 28 to 121.
Another provision updates how the Social Equity Council determines which areas of the state have been disproportionately-impacted by the war on drugs. The changes are designed to reflect more current census data.
Members of both parties said they expect to continue efforts to adapt Connecticut’s cannabis laws moving forward. D’Agostino said other states were also taking actions similar to those passed by the House.
“Just about every other state that has a regulated cannabis marketplace is also confronting this very issue,” D’Agostino said, “particularly the synthetic cannabinoids that we’re banning today and they’re confronting the issue of what to do with these THC products that are sold outside of their regulated marketplace.”
Yet, another portion of the bill creates an Office of the Cannabis Ombudman position for the medical marijuana community.
“Medical marijuana patients in Connecticut are finally on their way to having a voice in their own program through the Office of the Cannabis Ombudsman,” Lou Rinaldi, an advocate, said. “While we celebrate this portion of the bill, we continue to seek passage of HB6700 to help bolster our state’s struggling hemp industry and increase competition in the marketplace. We thank our legislators in both chambers for their ongoing support of these bills.”