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Lawmakers Offer First Draft of Legal Cannabis Bills

Lawmakers Offer First Draft of Legal Cannabis Bills

CT News Junkie, March 15, 2019

By Christine Stuart

There are still unknowns, but the Democratic co-chairs of three committees said Thursday that they’ve come up with a framework for recreational cannabis in Connecticut.

The separate pieces of legislation, which are so new they don’t have bill numbers, would create a five-member Cannabis Control Commission to oversee the regulation of the industry. Another set of bills would allow for the expungement of past convictions for possession of an ounce or more of the drug, and an unwritten piece of legislation would seek to set a 20-percent tax rate.
 

The General Law, Judiciary, and the Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees will each tackle a separate part of the process. The General Law Committee will handle regulation, the Judiciary Committee will handle decriminalization, and the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee will handle monetization.

The public hearing for the General Law and Judiciary committees will be held next Friday, March 22.

“It is a first draft in a complicated and complex process,” Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said. 

How many locations? back to top

The legislation doesn’t say how many cultivation, manufacturing, and retail locations will be opened in Connecticut if the General Assembly votes to legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21. It also doesn’t set a timeline for when Connecticut residents could start purchasing the product if the legislation is approved.

But the legislation does allow the Department of Consumer Protection to propose regulations to allow for the immediate sale of cannabis through the current medical marijuana program.

The legislation would also seek to give people from communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs an opportunity to get into the business. Applicants who come from communities impacted by high rates of arrest and conviction will get to submit their applications three months earlier than anyone else.

The legislation allows for large, medium, and small cultivation licenses and allows Connecticut farmers to participate. It also allows a cultivator of cannabis to become a manufacturer of cannabis, but a cultivator would not be allowed to also own a retail location.

The legislation also asks the Cannabis Control Commission to study the possibility of home growing the product.

“Home grow is not allowed right off the bat with this bill, but it is something we want to look at,” D’Agostino said.

The legislation introduced in the General Law Committee would also prohibit the retail sale of cannabis in packaging designed to appeal to children. It seeks to ban the use of cartoons, toys, animals, or anything that looks like a trademarked food product in cannabis marketing materials.

D’Agostino said the language also will likely ban “gummies” as an edible cannabis product in Connecticut in order to help avoid the possibility of ingestion by children.

They will also seek to limit the THC content in the products that are sold. And in order not to undercut the thriving medical marijuana program in Connecticut, they will also allow for a reduction in taxes on those products.
 

In order to remain competitive with neighboring states Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said they will have an overall tax rate of 20 percent. He said it would be similar to the law in Massachusetts where there is a 10.75 percent excise tax, a 6.25 percent sales tax, and maybe a local option tax for communities hosting the facilities. 

He said they’re looking at an overall tax rate of 20 percent.

 Legislation related to the taxing structure won’t be introduced until the other components are completed.

Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, said the Judiciary Committee will tackle three separate related bills.

One bill would decriminalize up to one-and-a-half ounces of cannabis for someone over the age of 21 and provide for the erasure of criminal records. Another would address driving under the influence and involve new charges for those who are passengers in a vehicle who may be smoking and giving a driver a contact high. Another would address provisions in the workplace and would make sure employers did not have to accommodate employees under the influence.