Connecticut House Republicans introduced legislation that would tighten restrictions on the state’s cannabis market, including an outright ban on edible cannabis sales.
At a press conference in Hartford Tuesday, Republican lawmakers expressed concern over an anticipated increase in impaired driving fatalities, pediatric cannabis overdoses, and health risks after recreational cannabis sales became a reality. They said their newly proposed H.B. 5434 aims to tackle these issues with more stringent regulations.
In addition to codifying current Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection policy into state statute, H.B. 5434 seeks to prohibit the sale of all edible cannabis products, curtail public consumption, repeal restrictions on law enforcement for cannabis-related stops and searches, and allow day care and school staff to stop parents from picking up their children when they are under the influence of cannabis.
Among its 13 provisions, the proposal also calls on the state to suspend retail cannabis sales until Connecticut’s drug recognition expert certification program becomes operational.
“People are now realizing that it is no joking matter,” House Minority Leader Rep. Vincent Candelora said. “There’s conversations of actually expanding the program and making it even more accessible to the public at a time when we haven’t even gotten our arms around the enforcement and the safety pieces of this. [This] is looking to put some better guardrails around the system that we have in place.”
On Thursday the General Law Committee voted to reserve the bill for a subject matter public hearing. The date of the hearing is not yet determined.
Candelora said that the legislation would clarify Connecticut’s requirements concerning child-proofing cannabis containers, the use of non-enticing packaging, THC dosage and servings, and potency, which are currently stipulated in CDCP policy, not legal code.
Among other policies, the CDCP requires that all cannabis containers be child-resistant, tamper-proof, opaque and either all-black or all-white, with clearly defined labels. Edible servings must be “physically demarcated and readily separable” with no more than 5 milligrams per serving and 100 milligrams per container. THC concentrations can not exceed 30% for flower or “bud,” and 60% for edibles, vape cartridges, and other consumption methods.
Candelora and others believe that the legislature should determine regulations in the cannabis market.
“The law allows for the DCP to impose [restrictions]. The Democrats didn’t want to set a [THC] limit statute, we wanted it in statute. And so we have to wait for the mercy of bureaucrats to sit around and make decisions on what this animal should look like,” Candelora said. “It’s left in the hands of bureaucrats and we believe these policies need to come back to the legislature.”
Candelora said that his party does not have a specific concentration recommendation at the moment, but he believes all concentrations should fall in the 30% range.
Ranking member of the General Law Committee Rep. David Rutigliano said that the proposal to ban edible sales altogether is aimed at opening up dialogue about the cannabis consumption method to hopefully establish more regulations.
“At least we’re going to have a conversation about edibles,” Rutigliano said. “This goes back to dosing and concentration. … If you’re in Massachusetts and they say, ‘Well, the dose is the ear. It’s four doses per gummy.’ This is ripe for abuse and people getting sick and trips to the emergency room. It should be a single serving. The dosing should be the actual gummy, not an ‘ear’ or a ‘foot.’”
The bill also aims to officially end gas station, smoke shop and convenience store sales of all THC variants by eliminating ambiguity in the public perception of the current law which Candelora said has lacked “an enforcement arm.”
Rutigliano said a survey in his town of Trumbull found that eight locations were selling delta-8 and delta-9 THC which can induce intoxicating effects. Rutigliano said that one of the locations sold the product in an illegal manner in the form of cookies and knock-off Oreos.
“This was a simple vape shop. It wasn’t a retail marijuana location,” Rutigliano said.
Ranking member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee Rep. Holly Cheeseman said young people and all motorists need more information about how cannabis can impair function. Language in the bill would require a driver’s education module on the dangers of operating a vehicle while under the influence of cannabis before getting a license.
It would also mandate packaging labels stating that “cannabis use may be addictive, lead to birth defects, or cause psychosis.”
“We’re asking for the same government health warning that you see on cigarettes,” Cheeseman said.
Cheeseman, Candelora and Rutigliano also focused on reports of pediatric THC overdoses from accidental child consumption of cannabis.
With no data analyst on the Connecticut Poison Control Center staff, Dr. Suzanne Doyon, the medical director of the CPCC, said that the center does not have readily available statistics on the number of cannabis overdose calls.
“My gut feeling is [the overdose] call volume is unchanged because there are very few edibles sold in [Connecticut] right now,” Doyon said.
Doyon estimates that it would take at least two to three more months to gauge the impact of Connecticut’s nascent recreational cannabis sales on the number of pediatric exposures.
Alison Cross can be reached at email@example.com.