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What’s In Recreational Marijuana Bill, From Legal Possession Amounts To Industry Equity, And Taxation

What’s In Recreational Marijuana Bill, From Legal Possession Amounts To Industry Equity, And Taxation

Hartford Courant, February 14, 2020

By Amanda Blanco

As Connecticut once again debates legalizing recreational marijuana, Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed plan would build upon the state’s successful medical marijuana program and work with New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey to create a “tightly controlled and regulated market.”

The earliest start date for legalization in the bill is July 1, 2022. However, it would only take place after the Department of Consumer Protection, along with an “Equity Commission,” make recommendations on regulation and sales to the legislature in 2021.

The governor’s 108-page bill covers a variety of topics related to legalization, including the legal possession amounts, industry equity, taxation, and possible restrictions on child-friendly advertising. The bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Besides legalizing marijuana itself, it would also legalize other products that contain cannabis, including concentrates, extracts, oils, tinctures, shatter and waxes. Adults could legally posses up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis, including any cannabis-derived products. No more than five grams included in the 1.5 ounce total may be in the form of a concentrate.

The bill would also legalize concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical compound found in marijuana that produces the “high” associated with the drug. The Department of Consumer Protection would consider what limitations should be placed on the amount of THC per cannabis product serving and how much can be sold at once.

In 2019, numerous states, including Connecticut, reported a rise in vaping-related illnesses and lung injuries linked to black market THC. Critics of Lamont’s bill said it did not comprehensively address the health risks associated with the substance, particularly with regard to illegal use by teenagers. The bill does discuss prohibiting the use of toxic additives in cannabis-derived vaping products, including vitamin E acetate and other vitamin E derivatives. The DCP would also consider what necessary requirements should be placed on “any vaporizer or inhalation device sold or manufactured by a cannabis establishment.”

Equity Commission back to top

The new nine-member Equity Commission, administered by the state Department of Consumer Protection, would focus on promoting and encouraging “full participation in the cannabis industry” by communities “that have been disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition and enforcement.” The commission would include those with experience working in social justice or civil rights, economic development, and capital access to minorities, as well as one member appointed by the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

Potential owners of cannabis establishments may qualify as “equity applicants” if they, or their parent or child, was arrested or convicted of selling, possessing, using, manufacturing, or cultivating marijuana. Those who have lived for at least five of the past 10 years in a census tract with high unemployment and high poverty rates may also qualify as equity applicants. Besides paying lower fees, equity applicants would also receive licensing prioritization.

Additionally, those convicted of misdemeanor drug offenses who did not use or threaten physical force against another person could not be banned from obtaining a license or working in the cannabis industry for that reason.

Marijuana taxes would vary according to weight and type for each sale to a retailer. Cannabis flowers, which have been harvested, dried and cured, would be taxed at $1.25 per gram. Dry trim, which includes all the parts of the plant besides the flower, would be taxed at $0.50 per gram. Cannabis trim does not include industrial hemp, a high-fiber cannabis strain with low THC levels used to make paper and fabrics. Wet cannabis, defined in the bill as the entire harvested plant that has not undergone drying or trimming processes, would be taxed at $0.28 per gram.

The DCP would also consider prohibiting the “retail sale of cannabis designed to appeal to children.” Such regulations could ban the use of cartoons, toys, animals, and children in marketing, as well as the sales tactic of creating products to resemblance to trademarked kid-friendly foods. Other measures to be considered include regulating the time, place, location, and types of advertising, including online advertising. 

The bill did not specifically mention whether certain edibles, such as gummy candies, would be allowed but did state the importance of clearly labeling all products that contain cannabis and child-proof storage.