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'CannaWarriors' protest state bill provision that would crack down on cannabis gifting

Protestors gather at the state capitol against Section 2 of HB 5239.
Kay Perkins, WNPR.
Protestors gather at the state capitol against Section 2 of HB 5239.

At least forty people gathered at the state Capitol today to protest a bill that would crack down on giving away adult-use and medical use cannabis.

Lawmakers testified in a hearing last week that the bill’s purpose is to target unlicensed businesses operating under false pretenses. But the bill also has language that would ban cannabis distribution at any event that charges a cover -- such as the High Bazaar in Hamden, which uses its cover fee to pay for permits and on-site medical staff. The law, if passed as written, would also forbid any other sales at events where cannabis is handed out -- including food or crafts.

Christina Capitan, one of the organizers of the protest, argued these events are a safe and valuable part of her community.

“It’s a central location where we can come together to help one another,” Capitan said. “I have nothing to hide, my friends have nothing to hide, we’re ultimately caregivers. And now we see that the state is trying to take that from us.”

Terry Hopper, another protestor, said he relies on these events because dispensaries -- the only places selling cannabis currently -- are prohibitively expensive.

“I had to pay $150-200 for a license, plus $100 a year just for the right to buy medicine, without even buying the medicine yet. And no other medicine is regarded that way,” Hopper said. “You don’t pay for the right to take insulin. You pay for the medicine. It seems like they’re exploiting this for money.”

He says he prefers these events because he likes getting to know the people sourcing his product.

“At the bazaars, you get a chance to talk to the actual growers themselves. And like I say, the shortest line between the farm and you is probably the best. It’s the freshest. Like tomatoes or produce,” Hopper said.

Duncan Markovich, another protestor, operates a CBD store and is currently working on his application to sell THC products. He said he feels that gifting events allow producers to communicate directly with their consumers, which leads to better-quality products.

“When you’re trying to mass-grow marijuana the same way Budweiser makes Bud Light, you’re going to run into botany limits with the logistics of trying to grow that plant,” Markovich said. “That’s the danger of corporate metrics and culture, and looking at numbers instead of people.”

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