The political infighting is all finished in the Connecticut marijuana legalization debate. And man, there was a lot of it, right to the last day.
Now the state turns to creating and enforcing the rules for recreational cannabis. What does that mean for you? Some details aren’t yet clear, like how many stores we’ll see. Some aspects of the 295-page bill that Gov. Ned Lamont will soon sign into law remain open to interpretation.
And of course, no law is carved in stone. “These things will change and evolve over time,” said Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee and a key sponsor of the bill.
Here’s what we know now. Every bit of this applies strictly to people age 21 or older.
Generally when we talk about marijuana, we mean any cannabis product that contains THC, the psychoactive ingredient. There are some differences in the law between smokable and edible forms; you can consume gummie and chocolates most anyplace, as long as you’re not driving.
When does the law take effect and what happens then?
Starting July 1, you can have more marijuana than you can possibly consume in a reasonable time. It will become perfectly legal to possess – no infraction and certainly no arrest – but you can’t sell it. That’s still a crime. Stores are targeted to open in mid-2022, but a lot has to happen first.
Can I smoke pot in public after the bill goes into effect?
As with tobacco, smoking pot is prohibited in public buildings, most workplaces and stores, state parks and lots of other places. “The bottom line is, anyplace that smoking tobacco is illegal, either smoking or vaping cannabis will also be illegal,” Stafstrom said. The bill expands the no-smoking list to include areas within 25 feet of any doors, windows or intake vents of public buildings. That means you can’t walk down a sidewalk smoking a joint if it’s within 25 feet of a store – but that provision doesn’t kick in until Oct. 1 of this year. As for walking down the street in a residential area, that’s open to interpretation by police so it’s not yet clear. An example of the complexity: The bill gives cities and towns a lot of leeway to determine whether smoking marijuana is allowed on property they own or control, such as local parks.
How about in a car, if I’m not driving?
Nope. You can’t smoke marijuana even as a passenger in a motor vehicle “that is being operated” on any public road, highway or parking lot with more than 10 spaces.
How will police be able to tell if I’m driving under the influence?
“Each police officer will be certified to tell whether someone is high,” Stafstrom said, based on new training they will all receive. And the state will train many more “drug recognition experts,” whose testimony will be admissable in court.
Can I smoke pot on my private property in clear view of the public, such as sitting in a chair on my front lawn – even if children are just a few feet away?
How much am I allowed to possess starting July 1?
You can carry up to 1.5 ounces of “plant material” or equivalent in other forms. In addition, you can have up to 5 ounces in a locked container at home or in a locked glove compartment or the trunk of your car.
How much will I be allowed to grow at home, and when?
Medical patients may cultivate up to three mature and three immature cannabis plants starting Oct. 1, 2021. “Anyone else will have to wait until July 1, 2023, with the same plant limits,” the state Department of Consumer Protection said.
Where exactly can I grow the plants?
They must be inside, not outdoors, at your primary residence.
Can I sell any pot that I grow? Can I give it away as a gift?
No, you can’t sell any marijuana even if you grow it yourself, unless you hold a license from the state. You are allowed to give away cannabit as a gift.
Can I go to the store and buy it for a friend who then pays me back for the cost?
No, receiving compensation is the same as selling, even if you’re just picking it up for a friend and not profiting.
Can my employer prohibit me from using THC products? How about while not at work?
This is a complex area but generally, employers will have leeway under Connecticut law to bar employees from using marijuana – certainly at work, and also outside of work. “We have the most employer friendly protections of any legalization bill I’ve seen in the country,” Stafstrom said. Some types of workers fall udner even stricter guidelines, including firefighters, police, commercial drivers and certain federal employees and contractors. “We were very sensitive to the fact that we are a state that has a heavy concentration of defense manufacturers,” Stafstrom said.
What is the best estimate of when the first stores will open?
The governor’s office at first said May 2022, and now is wavering on that goal. Before anyone opens retail doors, the state must license growers and retailers and license an entire supply chain, which then must be up and ready. Most states have taken longer than a year to open.
How many stores we will see in, say, five years?
The number could be very large, rivaling the number of package stores – but market conditions will play a strong part in determining who opens. Cities and towns will also be able to prohibit marijuana dispansaries through their zoning powers.
What is the maximum amount I will be able to buy?
One ounce of cannabis, or an equal amount of THC products per day at a single retailer. Medical patients have higher limits.
Will the ingredients for blended THC products such as edibles and vape be listed?
Yes, unlike in many states.
Will we see colorful trade names for products, such as “Purple Haze” and “Grand Master Trashed,” which are not allowed in the medical dispensaries?
Yes, as long as they aren’t designed to appeal to teens and young kids. But the rules may limit flashy packaging or colors.