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Connecticut lawmakers ponder restrictions on cannabis advertising, distribution

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut lawmakers are considering a bill, HB 5329, that would impose several new restrictions on cannabis sale and distribution.

Section 2 of the bill would impose a fine up to $10,000 on any business that gives away cannabis for free. The bill intends to keep unlicensed retailers from skating around licensing laws -- for example, by including cannabis as a free gift attached to another product.

Speaking at a General Law Committee public forum on Tuesday, committee chair Mike D’Agostino said most people wouldn’t be affected by the legislation.

“Nobody’s going after friends gifting to friends here. But there has been a marketplace. And frankly, an unregulated gifting marketplace that just avoids any of the structure we’ve put in place is not something that should exist,” D’Agostino said.

More than a dozen critics spoke out against Section 2 at the forum.

“Intentions of laws are one thing. How it’s interpreted, is going to be something totally different. And then the enforcement -- who is going to control this? Who is going to tell my local police that it’s okay for me, but my neighbor who’s having a Tupperware party, and is exchanging cannabis for that Tupperware -- now they’re going to get raided?” said Denise Sullivan of Tolland.

Other speakers at the forum pointed to cannabis exchange events and praised the communal spirit these events bring.

D’Agostino said the committee would take another look at Section 2 to try to narrow its focus. He also said the committee would remove language in the current draft of the bill that would authorize jail time for anyone violating the law.

Another provision in the bill addresses billboard advertisements for cannabis. Supporters argued at the forum that billboards will encourage children and teenagers to use cannabis. House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora said such risks outweigh any benefits of these billboards.

“Adults are going to find the product on their own if they want to get it, we don’t need to be marketing for it,” Candelora said.

The only member of the committee to speak out against the bill at the meeting was Senator Kevin Witkos, who argued that this portion of the law could violate the First Amendment.

D’Agostino said he expects this portion of the bill to pass with bipartisan support.

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