For the first time in Hamden, people meet in public to enjoy cannabis.
“It’s a great day that Connecticut finally legalized marijuana, hemp and whatever, and you don’t need to get in trouble over a medicine,” said Emilio Cucciniello of Hamden. “We are no longer afraid of the police wearing something that is much less bad than alcohol.”
As of July 1, possession of 1.5 ounces has been legal in the state, but there are some rules.
In New Haven, existing tobacco regulations now contain cannabis, so it’s banned anywhere cigarettes are.
“In city parks, on school grounds, in playgrounds, in such places,” said Mayor Justin Elicker.
These include New Haven Green and Lighthouse Point Park, and within 25 feet of doors and windows of public buildings.
He says the city rarely gives quotes for tobacco and that he hopes people will continue to be respectful smokers and not take advantage of the loose enforcement.
“If that happens and a lot of people are affected, we can impose violations and take additional enforcement measures,” said Elicker.
On the other side of the restrictions, retail sales could start a year from July 2022. A portion of these government dollars is used for public health efforts.
“The income from these types of sales will be able to generate some type of income from prevention and addiction services,” said Maritza Bond, New Haven’s health director.
Bond says the department has already launched an outreach campaign to raise awareness about cannabis use and the dangers to groups like children, pets and nursing mothers.
“We want to make sure we have an awareness campaign because people need to understand the facts about the risk of consuming too much of it.”
Kebra Smith-Bolden owns CannaHealth, a medical cannabis dispensary.
“I advocated legalization, although it might hurt my business a little because it could be good overall,” said Smith-Bolden, a registered nurse.
She started her business after seeing the health benefits her grandmother experienced from taking medicinal cannabis. She wanted to give the people of New Haven access and social justice. The closest pharmacy was in Monroe.
“Older people who are simply afraid of opioids because of everything that has happened in the last decade and want to try safe plant-based drugs,” said Smith-Bolden. “And (there are) young people over the age of 21 who are struggling with symptoms of PTSD.”
She provides the medication and referrals for any psychological therapy she believes is needed.
“If you were born and raised downtown, experienced inequalities in health education, finances, or were in jail. These are all things that cause trauma, ”said Smith-Bolden.
She believes people will still seek treatment and therapy, and says she doesn’t worry too much about losing business to the recreational market.