Connecticut is on the verge of becoming the 19th state to legalize adult recreational cannabis use after a long-awaited bill passed the General Assembly and Democratic governor. Ned Lamont has announced that he will sign it. While it will be legal for adults 21 and older to own up to 42.5 grams of cannabis starting July 1, it will likely take at least a year for an industry to become operational.
Here’s what to expect:
What happens first
As of July 1, the law allows people aged 21 and over to own or consume up to 42.5 grams of “cannabis plant material” and up to 141.7 grams in a locked container at home or in the trunk, or locked glove box in the vehicle the person.
The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection began serious work a few months ago on new state regulations and license applications required for the legalized cannabis industry. The department will continue these efforts and begin hiring new agency staff. Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said she anticipates several dozen people will be hired for investigative and compliance work, licensing and communications. Seagull said the hiring is being deliberately staggered. For example, once the stores are up and running, investigators or inspectors will be needed more.
Building on medical cannabis
Connecticut legalized medical cannabis by law in 2012. Almost a decade later, on June 13, there were 54,227 registered patients, 18 pharmacies, four manufacturers, and 1,451 registered doctors. Seagull said her agency plans to use much of the lessons learned from building the medical program to create and regulate a new recreational system. This includes drawing up packaging protocols and labeling to prevent the drug from being mistaken for a non-cannabis product and getting into the hands of a child, as well as laboratory testing of other product safety measures.
“Whether you are using it for medical purposes or for adults, you should know what is in your product and those labels should be there,” she said. “They should be manufactured according to suitable manufacturing standards.”
There will be several different ways to apply to join the state’s new adult cannabis market. For example, existing companies can apply for the switch and start offering products for the adult market.
The expectation, Seagull said, is that half of the licenses will be made available to social justice applicants, including residents of communities “disproportionately affected” by drug-related crime and high unemployment. A new 15-member Social Justice Council will be tasked with ensuring these individuals benefit from the system and making recommendations for equity contenders’ expectations for retailers, hybrid traders, growers, micro-cultivators, product manufacturers, food and beverage manufacturers, and product packers, vans – and delivery service licenses. Some people may need to enter a lottery depending on the number of applicants. In the meantime, there will be a parallel track for other applicants for the same licenses.
Seagull said applications should be available in the coming months. Interested parties should check the agency’s website for updates.
Given that cannabis is still a federally banned controlled substance – preventing many cannabis-related companies from using banking services – Connecticut law requires the State Department of Banking Officer by January 1 proposes recommendations to the General Assembly, how to deal with the challenge. Specifically, the bill seeks proposals to facilitate the use of electronic payments by cannabis companies and consumers, and to give cannabis companies in the state access to custodians and commercial mortgages.
The bill also requires the state’s insurance commissioner to report to the governor and state lawmakers by January 1 on cannabis company access to insurance.