Connecticut Bill Takes Aim at Cannabis ‘Gifting’
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Connecticut Bill Takes Aim at Cannabis ‘Gifting’

The legislation would impose up to a $10,000 fine and a year of incarceration against violators.

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March 10, 2022

Some Connecticut vendors are being a little too ambitious with their cannabis handouts, or at least that’s the position of a proposed bill taking aim at those putting a bow on the product.

Connecticut lawmakers passed adult-use legalization during a special session in June 2021 via Senate Bill 1201, which, in addition to allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis flower or an equivalent amount of concentrate in public, allows adults to “gift” cannabis to each other, according to advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project.

But as the state’s forthcoming retail market gets its ducks in a row ahead of a commercial sales launch (perhaps as soon as this spring), gifting cannabis in one Connecticut town has drawn the attention of state lawmakers.

Earlier this year, shoppers in Hamden were enticed by novelty art and clothing vendors who were also handing out cannabis at the High Bazaar festival, The Connecticut Mirror reported.

“We appreciate that gifting will go on between people in the privacy of their homes,” Rep. Mike D’Agostino, a Democrat who represents Hamden, told the newspaper. “An event that’s organized, that rents space and is really a market just violates the entire intent of the statute that we put in place last year.”

Now Connecticut lawmakers are considering legislation, House Bill 5329, an act concerning cannabis transfers, advertisements and recommendations by the state’s social equity council. Specifically, H.B. 5329 would impose up to a $10,000 fine and one year of incarceration against those who violate cannabis gifting provisions, the Mirror reported.

The bill is being sponsored by the Joint Committee on General Law, which held a public hearing on the legislation March 8.

D’Agostino, who chairs the committee, said, “The committee’s intent here with this language was really to prevent and rein in these retail gifting events that have been occurring in the state, which really are retail events, but they’re just an end run-around actually going through the permitting and the transaction process that we’ve set up through our cannabis clause.”

According to the proposed bill’s text, no person shall gift, sell or transfer cannabis to another person in exchange for any donation or to gain admission to an event. The legislation would also prohibit offering club memberships in exchange for cannabis, among other provisions that would go into effect July 1, 2022.

Michelle Seagull, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, weighed in on the language of the bill during the hearing.

“I suspect enforcement is going to be tied to: Was there a promotional transaction tied to it so that really you were buying other goods and services just as a way to get around the no retail sales of cannabis?” she said. “So, you can’t give it away as part of the broader commercial transaction.”

She also clarified that family-to-family cannabis gifting transactions inside a private residence would be permitted under the gifting guidelines of the bill.