“We’d simply like to see transparency and accountability from our elected officials, and for them to do what they said they would do.”
By Marc Fitch, Inside Investigator
The following article was originally published on Inside Investigator.
A task force to study whether individuals who grow their own cannabis at home should be allowed to sell their product at cannabis events has yet to be formed despite the statute requiring the task force to submit a report in January of 2024.
The Task Force to Study Impact of Authorized Cannabis Sales and Retail Events Organized for Such Sales was part of a 2023 omnibus cannabis law meant to address gaps in Connecticut’s cannabis regulations and enforcement. According to the bill signed by Gov. Ned Lamont (D), the 13-member task force was supposed to be appointed by July 26 and hold their first meeting by August 25.
According to the statute, the task force will examine the possible effects of allowing individuals “authorized to cultivate cannabis in their residences to sell, at retail, such cannabis at events organized, at least in part, to facilitate such sales.”
Under Connecticut’s existing law, private citizens can grow up to six cannabis plants at home for personal use but are not allowed to sell what they grow. Retail sales of cannabis and cannabis products are restricted to companies who have received licenses through Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), which can be a lengthy and expensive process.
Christina Capitan of CT CannaWarriors said she’s not surprised the task force has not formed but believes there should be some form of tiered licensing or permitting system for home-growers to be able to sell what they grow, which will be on a much smaller scale than the fully licensed producers and retailers in Connecticut.
“I think it’s inevitable when you have people who are adults cultivating cannabis, they’re going to want to share that or offer that into the community as a whole,” Capitan said. “People have been selling and sharing for a century before legalization was implemented. I think the state is doing a huge disservice and injustice to its people to not allow that in some capacity, whether it be licensed or permitted in some way.”
Lou Rinaldi, a medical marijuana patient who testified on the 2023 bill, says he believes the task force language was a “bone they threw in response to some grassroots advocacy for what is functionally unregulated cannabis markets,” similar to a farmers’ market.
“Our state legislators and our cannabis regulator (DCP) have made their cannabis-related priorities clear through their choices of action: enforcement and revenue collection,” Rinaldi said. “Much like the hemp task force stemming from the 2022 legislative session, there appears to have been zero action taken on this newest mandate as well. We’d simply like to see transparency and accountability from our elected officials, and for them to do what they said they would do.”
At least one organization, however, testified against the formation of the task force and its implications, arguing that it could reduce the safety of cannabis products which are tested and tracked in Connecticut.
Kiersten Naumann, a member of the Executive Committee of the Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals (CAPP), which focuses on behavioral health and wellness, and co-chair of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) that was formed “in response to changing marijuana laws and their negative impacts on our youth,” argued before the General Law Committee that allowing individuals to sell homegrown marijuana products could be harmful.
“First, individuals cultivating cannabis in their own homes are not regulated or licensed to ensure the product is safe and is cultivated in a safe, hygienic environment, free from potential contaminants,” Naumann said in written testimony. “Furthermore, off-site events will increase the potential for individuals under the age of 21 to access cannabis products, for children to inadvertently consume THC edibles, and for individuals to become impaired by second-hand smoke.”
Naumann also argued that these off-site events will require police presence and potentially circumvent Connecticut’s restrictions on cannabis advertisements.
The task force, if they decided to authorize such sales by individuals who grow marijuana within their residence, was also supposed to recommend possible legislation. With the report deadline just a month and a half away and no task force members or meetings listed so far, such a report will likely not materialize. But the task force is not the only part of the 2023 cannabis bill that has yet to be implemented.
Rinaldi points out that the same legislation required a cannabis ombudsman to be appointed by the Office of the Healthcare Advocate, an appointment that also has not yet been made, The original October 1, 2023, deadline for the appointment was removed from the final bill.
According to the bill language, the ombudsman would oversee complaints, examine how Connecticut laws and regulations affect medical marijuana patients and their caregivers and recommend potential legislative changes.
“If you’re going to pass laws meant to evolve the cannabis industry and the cannabis market here in Connecticut, then you have to execute on those laws,” Rinaldi said. “You can’t just prioritize the corporatist aspects; you can’t prioritize revenue and enforcement and nothing else. Just do what you said you were going to do.”