Connecticut Governor Signs Legislation Cracking Down on Cannabis ‘Gifting’

Another state with legal weed is cracking down on unregulated cannabis retailers. This time, it is lawmakers in Connecticut who are taking on the practice of “gifting,” through which illicit weed shops sell a product (say, a T-shirt) that comes with a cannabis “gift.”

Now, under a bill signed into law last week by the state’s Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, that loophole could be tightening up.

According to the Connecticut Post, cities in the state “can now fine residents up to $1,000 for gifting a cannabis plant or other cannabis-related product to another individual in exchange for any kind of donation, including an admission fee, or as part of any giveaway such as a swag bag,” while the state itself can “can also separately issue $1,000 fines for failing to pay sales taxes.”

“Gifting” has become a go-to practice for marijuana retailers who haven’t gone through the proper regulatory channels to obtain a license, or who operate in states where cannabis is legal for adults but the regulated market has not yet launched.

The Associated Press reported that unregulated “cannabis bazaars have cropped up [in Connecticut] since the drug was legalized last year,” and “[t]housands of people have attended the events, often paying a fee to be admitted, and exchanged cannabis-related products for other items or received them along with the purchase of an item such as a T-shirt.”

In New York, where adult-use cannabis has been legal since March of last year, regulators have targeted businesses that have purportedly taken part in “gifting,” warning them that the legal retail market does not officially begin until later this year.

The New York Office of Cannabis Management sent cease-and-desist letters in March to a number of businesses it suspected of employing the practice, saying that continuing to do so could jeopardize their prospects for retail licenses.

“New York State is building a legal, regulated cannabis market that will ensure products are tested and safe for consumers while providing opportunities for those from communities most impacted by the over-criminalization of the cannabis prohibition and illegal operations undermine our ability to do that. We encourage New Yorkers to not partake in illicit sales where products may not be safe and we will continue to work to ensure that New Yorkers have a pathway to sell legally in the new industry,” OCM executive director Chris Alexander said in a statement at the time.

And in Washington, D.C., where voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing recreational pot in 2014, medical cannabis suppliers have objected to the practice of “gifting,” arguing that the illicit businesses are hurting their own legal operations.

Despite cannabis’s legal status in the nation’s capital, weed sales remain illegal due to an ongoing Congressional ban on the commercialization of pot there. 

The bill designed to crack down on gifting in Connecticut was proposed earlier this year.

While the measure had support among some cannabis business owners in the state, other weed advocates objected. Businesspeople who engage in gifting have also defended the practice.

“I do not deserve to be punished for this, nor does anyone else,” Justin Welch, a member of CT CannaWarriors and the New England Craft Cannabis Alliance, said in defense of the practice at the time of the bill’s introduction. “For too long now, good people have been persecuted for their involvement with cannabis. The grassroots cannabis community that exists here in Connecticut will not cease to exist, whether you pass this bill or not. Moving forward we need sensible cannabis policy that looks more like a craft beer policy.”

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More Than 15,000 Dispensary Applications Submitted in Connecticut

The state of Connecticut said last week that it received north of 15,600 applications from prospective recreational cannabis retailers, according to local news reports.

Central Maine reports that “State Department of Consumer Protection figures released Friday show that 8,357 applications were submitted before Wednesday’s deadline for the first six licenses that are reserved for social equity applicants—those located in mostly urban and low-income areas that were disproportionately impacted by the government’s war on drugs,” while the state also “received 7,245 license applications to the general lottery for adult-use cannabis retailers.”

The publication said that the “state did not set a limit on how many applications one entity could submit, but under its rules will not give more than two licenses to any one applicant.” 

“The department also received 1,896 applications to become micro-cultivators of marijuana, which will allow a licensee to grow in spaces between 2,000 and 10,000 square feet (3,048 meters). Other licenses will be available to sell medical marijuana, operate delivery services, make cannabis infused food and beverages and other cannabis products, as well as package and transport products,” Central Maine reported.

Recreational cannabis use for adults aged 21 and older has been legal in Connecticut for nearly a year now, with Democratic Governor Ned Lamont signing legislation into law last June.

“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” Lamont said in a statement at the time.

“That’s why I introduced a bill and worked hard with our partners in the legislature and other stakeholders to create a comprehensive framework for a securely regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, social justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs,” the governor continued. 

“By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states,” Lamont added.

But while the law took effect last summer, regulated retail sales are not expected to begin in Connecticut until later this year. 

Central Maine reported that the “first lottery for the social equity slots is expected within the next week,” with the winners undergoing “an eligibility review before the general lottery is held.”

The state began accepting social equity applications in January. 

Connecticut is one of a handful of northeastern states to legalize recreational cannabis use in recent years. The proximity to other regulated cannabis markets has caught the attention of some lawmakers in Connecticut, with members of the state House last month approving a bill that would prohibit out-of-state cannabis advertisements within its own borders.

Lawmakers were motivated to act after a number of billboards for Massachusetts cannabis retailers began to appear on the border. 

“Look, I’m sick of seeing these billboards with cannabis leaves splayed all across them, within 1,500 yards across from a school or church or whatever. Can’t we do something more about that?” said Democratic state House Representative Mike D’Agostino, as quoted by the Associated Press.

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Connecticut Lawmakers Look to Ban Out-of-State Cannabis Ads

Lawmakers in Connecticut on Tuesday took a big step toward banning out-of-state cannabis advertisements within its borders, with a bill easily winning approval in the House of Representatives.

The measure passed the state House by a vote of 98-48, according to the Associated Press, which said that the legislation seeks to prevent “anyone without a Connecticut cannabis-related license from advertising the product and cannabis-services within the state.”

The Associated Press reported that billboard ads have recently appeared on Connecitcut’s border with Massachusetts, where recreational cannabis is also legal for adults.

The move by lawmakers comes after Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said last year that he wanted to crack down on those billboards luring customers across the border to Massachusetts.

Local television station WTNH reported that Tong had “reached out to the billboard companies and dispensaries directly with mixed results.”

The bill that was passed by the Connecticut House of Representatives on Tuesday builds on the state’s legalization measure that was signed into law last year by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.

As in other states, parts of Connecticut’s new cannabis law took effect immediately, most notably the ability for adults aged 21 and older to have as many as 1.5 ounces of pot in their possession. Sales are expected to begin in the state next year.

When signed the bill into law last June, Lamont hailed it as a victory for civil rights.

“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” Lamont said in a statement at the time.

“By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states,” he added.

In addition to a ban on out-of-state cannabis ads, the bill that was passed by the House on Tuesday would also prohibit “Connecticut licensees from using images of the cannabis plant as well as from advertising on an illuminated billboard between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and from advertising within 1,500 yards of a school or church,” according to the Associated Press.

“Look, I’m sick of seeing these billboards with cannabis leaves splayed all across them, within 1,500 yards across from a school or church or whatever. Can’t we do something more about that?” said Democratic state House Rep. Mike D’Agostino, as quoted by the Associated Press.

The bill also seeks to impose restrictions on “gifting,” through which retailers pay for a product like a T-shirt and are then given a “gift” of cannabis.

The practice has emerged as a go-to loophole for businesses operating in markets where cannabis has been legal, but regulated sales have not begun.

According to the Associated Press, “D’Agostino stressed that lawmakers are not banning people from giving someone a gift of marijuana, but rather trying to reign in these commercial exchanges.”

“You can gift to your friends and relatives. You can host a brownie party at your house,” D’Agostino said, as quoted by the Associated Press.

In his statement following the signing of the legalization bill last summer, Lamont said that the new law “will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs.”

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Connecticut Lawmakers Advance Psychedelics Therapy Bill

A Connecticut legislative panel last week gave its approval to a bill to study the potential of the psychedelic drugs psilocybin and ketamine as treatments for serious mental health conditions. The measure, HB 5396, which would earmark $3 million for psychedelic-assisted therapy research, was approved by the Connecticut General Assembly’s joint Public Health Committee on Friday.

The bill does not legalize the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs in Connecticut. Instead, the legislation would create a pilot program with the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to provide qualified patients with the funding necessary to receive MDMA-assisted or psilocybin-assisted therapy. The program would be implemented as part of an expanded access program approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“The pilot program ends when the federal [Drug Enforcement Agency] approves MDMA and psilocybin for medical use,” said Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, the committee’s co-chair. “We should say ‘When and if,’ but we’re presuming ‘when.’”

The proposal also establishes an advisory panel to be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders to draft regulations in anticipation of an expected change in federal policy regarding the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs. The bill directs the board to make recommendations on the “design and development of the regulations and infrastructure necessary to safely allow for therapeutic access to psychedelic-assisted therapy upon the legalization of MDMA, psilocybin and any other psychedelic compounds,” according to the text of the bill.

Lawmakers heard testimony at a hearing held by the Public Health Committee last week. Martin Steele, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general and the founder of psychedelic therapy advocacy group Reason for Hope, told lawmakers that it is time to end the “misguided stigma” associated with the drugs.

“While we still have much to learn, psychedelic medicine, when used safely, responsibly, and in the right setting, may be our best hope to combat the suicide and opioid crises burdening our nation,” Steele said.

The Therapeutic Potential of Psychedelics

Research into psychedelics including psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine has shown that the drugs have potential therapeutic benefits, particularly for serious mental health conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety. A study published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry in 2020 found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was an effective and quick-acting treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. Separate research published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer. Rep. William Petit, a lawmaker who used to work as a practicing physician, said the legislation is supported by the research.

“PCP and other compounds have been fabulously successful in a small number of people with severe PTSD and other severe mental illnesses that have been refractory to other therapies,” Petit said. “It certainly needs to be explored.”

HB 5396 also establishes funding for psychedelic treatment centers by providing “grants to qualified applicants to provide MDMA-assisted or psilocybin-assisted therapy to qualified patients under the pilot program.” Qualified patients would include military veterans, health care workers, retired first responders and patients from “historically underserved communit[ies], and who [have] a serious or life-threatening mental or behavioral health disorder and without access to effective mental or behavioral health medication.”

Not all testimony at last week’s hearing was in favor of the bill. In a joint memo to legislators, the state commissioners of consumer protection, mental health and addiction services, and public health provided written testimony citing a report from a legislative panel. The working group reported that the potential of psychedelic drugs is promising, but federal action on the issue was expected no sooner than 2025.

“The sister state agencies that collaborated on the report are concerned that HB 5396 is much more expansive than the report findings,” the commissioners wrote. “The bill contains premature provisions related to a complex psilocybin program that state agencies are not resourced to implement.”

When asked about the concerns expressed by the commissioners, Steinberg said that the state is “treading new ground here.” He noted that lawmakers would soon meet with mental health and addiction services officials to address their concerns.

“This is, in some ways, a bold bill,” Steinberg said. “We’re really trying to move it forward in a consequential way.”

Steinberg also expressed frustration at the slow pace of federal action on psychedelic-assisted therapy.

“Sometimes we have to struggle with the feds,”  he said. “Sometimes we just wish they’d get out of our way but that doesn’t happen very often.”

Connecticut Rep. Michelle Cook said she welcomed the input of the state agencies. But she also expressed determination to guide the legislation to passage with or without the support of the commissioners.

“If this is something that they feel they can’t get behind, then we need to figure out another mechanism,” Cook said. “But doing nothing, I think, would be criminal in this regard.”

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Connecticut Bill Proposal Draws Criticism for Attempting to Ban Cannabis Gifting

The Connecticut General Assembly proposed Raised Bill No. 5329 last month, which seeks to address the loophole of “gifting” cannabis. If passed, the new bill would charge $10,000 for violations for public gifting parties. A General Law Committee held a public meeting on March 8 to discuss the bill, which brought advocates to share their concerns on the matter.

Recreational cannabis was passed in June 2021 with the signature of Governor Ned Lamont, with plans to begin statewide sales by the end of 2022. However, some advocates in Connecticut are claiming that the new bill is an attempt to re-criminalize cannabis before the program has even had a chance to fully launch. The bill’s text states that “no person shall gift, sell or transfer cannabis to another person,” and that cannabis cannot be exchanged as a donation, entry to an event, through a giveaway, and not at any location that isn’t a licensed cannabis dispensary.

One cannabis business owner, Duncan Markovich, attended a public virtual hearing of the proposal with the General Law Committee and expressed his concerns about the bill. “Some of the language presented in the bill … in fact would re-criminalize this plant and would be a major step backwards for all,” said Markovich. “The citizens of the state of Connecticut and those of us specifically within the cannabis community, culture, advocacy and industry cannot fathom such draconian language around this plant. Enacting a law that criminalizes the giving of any of this plant-based medicine to our fellow family members, friends or even complete strangers is unethical, unfathomable and borderline nefarious.” He also argued that gifting cannabis should be the same as gifting someone produce from a personal vegetable garden.

Another advocate, Justin Welch, who is a member of CT CannaWarriors and the New England Craft Cannabis Alliance, explained his reliance on gifting and his resistance to the bill as well. “I do not deserve to be punished for this, nor does anyone else,” he shared. “For too long now, good people have been persecuted for their involvement with cannabis. The grassroots cannabis community that exists here in Connecticut will not cease to exist, whether you pass this bill or not. Moving forward we need sensible cannabis policy that looks more like a craft beer policy.”

However, there is a defined difference between gifting cannabis to a friend or loved one, and gifting cannabis as free with the purchase of a different item. One example of such gifting has been seen in events such as the “High Bazaar” that was previously held in Hamden, Connecticut, which hosted up to 1,200 visitors every Saturday to enjoy live music and explore local vendors. According to the New Haven Register, an injunction put the High Bazaar to a halt because the event organizers did not have the proper permits.

During the virtual meeting, Representative Michael D’Agostino of Hamden, explained that the newly proposed bill was created to deter large scale gifting, rather than that of personal gifting. “The committee’s intent, with this language, was to really prevent and rein in these retail gifting events that have been occurring in the state, which really are retail events,” D’Agostino said. “They’re just an end run around the permitting and transaction process that we’ve set up through our cannabis laws.”

Connecticuter State Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull echoed that fact as well. “You can’t give it away as part of a broader commercial transaction,” said Seagull. “It has to be a lot more than if you just gave it to a friend.”

The General Law Committee is set to act on this bill proposal by March 22.

Although there has been no confirmation of where the High Bazaar will hold its events in the future, the Hamden mayor’s office hopes that it will find a new place to operate soon. “The administration supports organizations and businesses related to cannabis. We’re welcoming them to Hamden and the only concern about hosting the event at the [previous location] was about safety,” said Sean Grace, Mayor Lauren Garret’s chief of staff. “The events are very successful and they attract a lot of people, so you need the right venue for that.”

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Proposed Bill Could Protect Employees in Colorado who Use Cannabis

It has been nearly 10 years since voters in Colorado legalized recreational cannabis, but for some employers in the state, prohibition remains the law of the land.

A proposed bill would change that, with lawmakers there reviving an effort to prohibit employers from firing employers solely for using pot. 

Called the “Prohibit Employer Adverse Action Marijuana Use,” (or HB1152) the new legislation would seek to bar employers from “taking adverse action against an employee, including an applicant for employment, who engages in the use of… medical marijuana on the premises of the employer during working hours; or retail or medical marijuana off the premises of the employer during non-working hours.” 

The bill does allow for exceptions to the rule, saying that an employer “is permitted to impose restrictions on employee use of medical or retail marijuana under specified circumstances.”

According to the Colorado Sun, those exceptions include “workers whose jobs are in dangerous fields or require fine motor skills, such as positions involving the use of heavy machinery.”

HB1152 would resolve a peculiar dilemma in Colorado, where cannabis has become inextricably linked with the state’s culture and economy since voters approved a legalization proposal at the ballot in 2012. Medicinal cannabis has been legal in the state since 2000.

It follows a previous legislative effort, proposed in 2020, that also would have prohibited companies from firing workers for using cannabis outside of work.

Democratic state Representative. Brianna Titone, the chief sponsor of HB 1152, said it doesn’t make sense for a worker to be sacked over a legal activity.

“Marijuana is legal in Colorado,” Titone told the Colorado Sun. “And what people do in their spare time that doesn’t impact their work shouldn’t really be a problem for them. They should be able to enjoy the legal things that we have here in Colorado and not be penalized for it.”

Democratic state Representative Edie Hooton, a co-sponsor of the bill, echoed those sentiments.

“The whole idea is to signal to the business community and to employers that because we have legalized cannabis, we should be following the same laws and rules that apply to alcohol and prescription drugs,” Hooton said, as quoted by the Colorado Sun.

The discrepancy between law and company policy highlights what has been a defining tension of the past decade of legalization in the U.S., even as state after state has followed Colorado’s lead and ended prohibition within its own borders, weed remains illegal on the federal level, and still verboten in other parts of society.

In Colorado, the contradiction bubbled to the surface in 2015, when the state’s Supreme Court “ruled that DISH Network acted legally when it fired a quadriplegic employee, Brandon Coats, who used medical marijuana to treat seizures while he was not at work, after a random drug test turned up positive for marijuana,” according to local television station Denver7.

“It’s frustrating. I can’t get a job, especially with my case out there like that,” Coats said, as quoted by the station. “You can’t get a job for doing something that’s lawful, and it doesn’t make any sense to me.”

The bill has drawn objections, including from the Colorado Chamber of Commerce and Colorado Mining Association.

“Mining and marijuana don’t mix. Mining, like many other professions out there, is an inherently dangerous job no matter what jobs you have in mind. But you can reduce the risk of injury and death. The most important way to do that is to have a zero-tolerance drug policy,” said Stan Dempsey, the president of the Colorado Mining Association, as quoted by Denver7.

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Claim of Fentanyl-Laced Cannabis Overdoses in Connecticut was False

Another alleged case of fentanyl-laced cannabis in Connecticut has gone up in smoke. 

In this case, the false alarm came out of Connecticut, where an investigation has revealed that “nearly 40 Connecticut overdoses [that] were possibly linked to fentanyl-laced marijuana—sparking widespread attention and concern—turned out to be one confirmed case and was probably caused by accidental contamination,” according to a story by CT Insider.

That marks a major walk back from a bulletin in November issued by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, which said that it had “recently received reports of overdose patients who have exhibited opioid overdose symptoms and required naloxone for revival,” and that the “patients denied any opioid use and claimed to have only smoked marijuana.”

That press release detailed a total of 39 overdoses in the state between July and November of last year. In one such incident that took place in October, police in Plymouth, Connecticut were said to have responded to one overdose scene where they secured a sample of cannabis that later tested positive for fentanyl.

“This is the first lab-confirmed case of marijuana with fentanyl in Connecticut and possibly the first confirmed case in the United States,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani.

Now, the department is acknowledging that it overstated the extent of the problem in its initial reaction. 

According to CT Insider, Chris Boyle, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said that at least 30 of the 39 documented overdose cases involved individuals with a history of opioid use. The website reported that the “the Plymouth sample was the only one that has tested positive for fentanyl,” and that the “state reviewed all marijuana samples submitted to the state Division of Scientific Services Lab from July 1 to Nov. 30 and found no other cannabis submissions that contained fentanyl.”

Boyle said that it’s believed that the contamination occurred when the dealer “failed to clean their instruments before processing the marijuana and cross-contaminated it with fentanyl.”

“Based on the information gathered since the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl, the CT ORS [Connecticut Overdose Response Strategy] assesses that the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl was likely accidental contamination and an isolated incident,” Boyle wrote in an email, as quoted by CT Insider. 

“Anything bought off the street, including cannabis, has the potential to contain other substances, one of those being fentanyl,” Boyle continued. “CT DPH has documented evidence, from not just the State Police Forensics Lab, but from the DEA lab as verification of the seized drug sample, that cannabis was contaminated with fentanyl.”

The findings are the latest splash of cold water on a mania that erupted late last year regarding this very same issue. 

Reports of fentanyl-laced cannabis emerged out of Vermont in November, with local news outlets causing nationwide hysteria over reports of the spiked weed being found in Brattleboro, Vermont.

But the following month, police in Brattleboro said that the seized cannabis “was submitted to a forensic laboratory where testing was conducted” and that the department “was notified no fentanyl was found in the marijuana in either case.”

“​BPD stands by its previous public safety advisory that it is wise for consumers of marijuana to know the source and history of any marijuana they ingest,” the Brattleboro Police Department said in a statement at the time.

The erroneous reports have left cannabis advocates frustrated. 

“Despite this claim receiving prominent headlines over the past several years, there exist few, if any, confirmed cases of these claims being substantiated,” Paul Armentano, deputy director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told CT Insider

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Connecticut Set to Accept Cannabis Business License Applications

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) said that it would begin accepting applications for some adult-use cannabis license types in 30 days, following the final approval of technical assistance plans by the department’s Social Equity Council earlier on Tuesday.

“This work by the Social Equity Council is a critical step in the licensure process for the emerging Adult-Use cannabis market in Connecticut and will be instrumental in ensuring the equity goals established in the law are met,” DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said in a press release from the agency. 

Lawmakers in Connecticut legalized the use and possession of cannabis by adults last summer, making the state the fourth of five states to legalize recreational cannabis in 2021. Connecticut regulators are currently drafting rules to govern the adult-use cannabis industry, with dispensaries expected to begin selling recreational cannabis as soon as later this year. 

The DCP also announced the number of licenses for each adult-use cannabis business type that will be available in the first lottery round to be held later this year. A total of 12 retailer licenses, 10 delivery licenses and four hybrid retailer licenses will be awarded, with licenses for each type equally split among general and social equity applicants. 

The department will also award a limited number of licenses for other recreational cannabis businesses including micro-cultivators, transporters, manufacturers and product packagers in the first round lottery, with all license types equally divided among social equity and general applicants. 

“The initial number of available licenses is not a cap, but a starting point for opening the adult-use cannabis market in an effective, measured and thoughtful way,” Seagull said. “We know people are anxious to apply and see this market open, and we are hopeful that making this information available will help applicants as they begin to prepare for the lottery process.”

Most Licensed Awarded Via Lottery 

The application rounds for each of the eight license types that will be selected through the DCP’s lottery process will open on a staggered basis. The application period for the first round of lotteries will remain open for 90 days. The department also expects to open a second lottery application period for most license types in the second half of 2022.

Applications for cultivators located in a previously identified list of areas disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, which are not subject to a lottery draw, will be accepted beginning on February 3. The DCP will also begin accepting applications for cannabis retailers on February 3, with applications for other license types opening on a continuing basis through March 24, 2022.

The department will hold two lotteries for each license type, a social equity lottery and a separate lottery for general applicants. Applicants selected in the social equity lottery are subject to review by the Social Equity Council to confirm their status as social equity applicants. To qualify for social equity status, at least 65 percent of the business must be owned or controlled by individuals who meet income and residency requirements.

“Reviewing and vetting applications once they’ve been randomly selected through the lottery process will be a huge task for both DCP and the Social Equity Council,” said Andréa Comer, DCP deputy commissioner and chair of the Social Equity Council. “Establishing the number of licenses that will be available in the first application round is an important step in ensuring the Council, as well as DCP, can fairly and thoroughly review each application and issue licenses in a timely manner.”

The DCP also said that it will hold multiple lotteries to award cannabis business licenses on an ongoing basis. The department plans to announce the number of licenses that will be available before each application round. Rod Marriott, the director of the DCP’s Drug Control Division, encouraged applicants to complete their applications for cannabis business licenses “carefully and thoroughly.”

“Applications for most license types will be entered into a lottery,” Marriot noted. “There is no advantage for applicants who submit their lottery applications first. Applicants should prioritize submitting the best application they can.”

Applicants for some types of businesses, including licensed medical cannabis producers transitioning to the adult-use market and medical cannabis dispensaries converting to a hybrid retailer license, are not subject to a lottery process. Applicants applying for a cannabis establishment license as an Equity Joint Venture or Social Equity Partner with a licensed medical marijuana producer or dispensary facility and those applying for the Social Equity Council Micro-Cultivator Assistance Program will also be awarded without a lottery.

Applications for cannabis business licenses will be available from the DCP online.

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Dr. Bronner’s Funds Psilocybin Legalization Effort in Connecticut

Dr. Bronner’s is pushing for psilocybin reform once again. According to state filings, Washington D.C.-based New Approach PAC, a lobbyist group, funded $14,000 between August and September to local firm Grossman Solutions to promote drug policy reform in Connecticut. Dr. Bronner’s is among New Approach’s biggest donors.

CT Insider reports that a task force in Connecticut is examining the efficacy of psilocybin mushrooms for use in therapeutic settings. House Bill 6296, sponsored by Representative Josh Elliot and four other representatives, created a task force responsible for studying the efficacy of psilocybin for a variety of conditions—a key step in legalizing psilocybin for therapeutic purposes. Grossman Solutions will help New Approach engage with Connecticut’s psilocybin task force.

“New Approach’s mission is to end the senseless and destructive policies of the War on Drugs and replace them with policies that prioritize public health, science, healing and community instead of criminalization,” Ben Unger, director of psychedelic policy for New Approach told CT Insider. “We approach this work knowing that the fight to end the drug war is a political fight, and we need to run professional and strategic political campaigns to make progress.”

The task force examining psilocybin includes several current state legislators, academic researchers, clinicians from Yale, University of Connecticut and Midstate Medical Center, and representatives from several state agencies. It also includes former state representative Jesse MacLachlan.

CEO David Bronner is the grandson of company founder Emil Bronner. He said his goal is to free psychedelics, specifically legalization of psilocybin for therapeutic purposes, adding it’s exactly what his grandfather would have done. “The passion of my grandfather was to unite spaceship earth,” Bronner said. “We honor that legacy in different ways,” among them “integration of psychedelic healing in medicine and therapy.” Bronner also said that he believes “psychedelic medicine can really help people heal and wake up, and grapple with pressing problems.”

The funding arrived with a little bit of luck. Bronner admitted that his company experienced “windfall profits from being a soap business in the time of COVID,” and appropriated $15 million for advocacy—half of which went straight toward drug policy reform.

Dr. Bronner’s and Psilocybin Efforts

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps are known for organic materials and sustainable practices. The company was founded in 1948 by Emmanuel “Emil” Bronner, selling castile soap after fleeing from the Nazis in Germany under a rise in fascism. The family’s roots go further back, with soap-making skills dating decades.

More recently, the company shifted its main focus on organic and sustainable practices. Many of the company’s products already contain hemp extracts and/or CBD, among other useful ingredients. Earlier this year, the brand launched into the food market, using organic materials. The company added chocolate to Dr. Bronner’s line of products after the company learned that many of the farmers in Ghana who supply its Regenerative Organic Certified Serendipalm (used in Dr. Bronner’s soaps) also grow cocoa.

In 2019, Dr. Bronner’s pledged support of psilocybin efforts in Oregon, including a public endorsement of Oregon’s statewide Psilocybin Therapy Service Initiative of 2020 (PSI 2020), Oregon’s statewide Drug Addiction Treatment & Recovery Act of 2020 (DATRA), as well as Decriminalize Nature’s efforts to decriminalize natural psychedelic plant medicines in cities around the country including in Oregon.

Oregon Measure 109, the Psilocybin Program Initiative was on the ballot in Oregon as an initiated state statute and approved on November 3, 2020. “We were the major financial backer of Oregon’s 109 measure,” Bronner said.

In November 2020, Dr. Bronner’s released a cannabis-scented soap bar to benefit a new consumer education and crowdfunding campaign to promote the regenerative organic cannabis standard, Sun+Earth Certified. The scented soap bars contain specific terpenes found in cannabis for a unique smell.

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Connecticut Official Hints at Delay in Launch of Legal Cannabis Sales

A Connecticut state official said on Wednesday that regulators working to implement the state’s legalization of cannabis still have many details to work out before accepting applications for business licenses and hinted that the launch of legal recreational marijuana sales may be delayed. 

Connecticut became the fourth state to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2021 with the signing of legislation by Governor Ned Lamont in June. The law became effective on July 1, with lawmakers originally anticipating that legal sales of recreational marijuana to begin in the summer of 2022. 

However, Michelle Seagull, the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, said this week that the launch would likely come later.

“We’ve been suggesting that there will likely be sales by the end of 2022, and we’re still aspiring for that,” Seagull told local media. “Obviously, we have to see how things play out in the next few months.”

Seagull told the audience at a “Business of Cannabis” breakfast held by the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday morning that state regulators are still ironing out some of the details of legalization. One issue still being discussed is how to protect the existing market for medical marijuana, which began operating in 2012. Connecticut now has 18 licensed medical cannabis dispensaries across the state, all of which will be permitted to apply for a license to sell recreational cannabis, as well.

“It’s really important to us that we preserve the medical marketplace that currently does exist,” Seagull said. ‘It’s important to us that that market, which is working well and helping a lot of people, doesn’t get swallowed up.”

Many Decisions Left To Social Equity Council

Seagull also noted that many decisions still to be made, including what documentation will be necessary for social equity applicants, will be the responsibility of a social equity council appointed by Lamont and lawmakers. The 15-member panel met for the first time last month.

When asked about “large corporations trying to circumvent rules” to obtain social equity licenses, Seagull said that decision will be made by the social equity council, which will “need to take a look at ownership and corporate documents to understand who truly controls the business.”

An audience member, Matthew Ossenfort, said that he was considering a change in careers to the cannabis industry after 18 years in fashion. He asked if the criteria for social equity applicants could be expanded to include race, gender and sexual identity in order to more expressly prioritize participation in the cannabis industry by members of diverse groups.

“I hope the commissioner takes that question seriously, because my biggest fear is that if they only look at qualifications based on income, a bunch of licenses are going to go to people who can’t afford to actually get these businesses up and running, and the other licenses will all go to millionaires,” Ossenfort said. “The middle class should have a way into this industry, too.”

Kurt Smith, a panelist at the business breakfast who works as a consultant assisting cannabis businesses with licensing, planning, licensing and design, told the audience that legalization will affect many business sectors in Connecticut outside of the marijuana industry.

“They’re creating an entirely new industry that’s going to reach all of the businesses in this room,” Smith said. “The capital-intensive nature of this business makes it difficult for these companies to start up and have all of their own infrastructure, like HR and IT departments, so I think the ancillary business market is going to see that there is a lot of opportunity here.”

Smith is also a co-founder of Four Score, a licensed cannabis cultivator and retailer in Massachusetts. He suggested that Connecticut follow that state’s lead by making funding available to social equity applicants, noting that “many of the people who get social equity licenses won’t just have $20,000 sitting around to hire an architect.”

Smith also advised that rolling out Connecticut’s adult-use cannabis market will require patience and people should not expect regulations to be drafted right away.

“It’s going to take longer than everybody thinks,” Smith said. “It’s not going to happen on that timetable, because it always takes extra time to get these things right.”

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