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Connecticut House approves bill to regulate hemp products

The Connecticut House of Representatives passed a bill this week to regulate ingestible hemp products. Lawmakers said the legislation was necessary to protect the public from the potentially harmful effects of hemp-derived cannabinoids. The House approved the measure, House Bill 5150, by a vote of 130-16 on Tuesday, less than three months after it was introduced into the legislative session by the House General Law Committee. The bill now heads to the Connecticut Senate for consideration.

Hemp cultivation and hemp-derived products were legalized more than five years ago with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill by the U.S. Congress. Since then, a variety of ingestible hemp products have been introduced to the market, many containing intoxicating cannabinoids, and are widely available at retailers such as convenience stores, gas stations and smoke shops. Rep. Mike D'Agostino, one of the bill's lead sponsors, said legislation is needed to control the unregulated market for hemp-derived cannabinoid products.

“We can't ban them, but we can regulate the hell out of them,” said Democratic Rep. Mike D'Agostino, co-chair of the General Law Committee, according to a report by the Hartford Courant. “We say, OK, these products have to be manufactured to our standards. They must be labeled in accordance with our standards so that the disclosure meets our standards.”

The legislation would regulate hemp products, including beverages containing THC, and limit the sale of certain products to adults 21 and older. The bill also defines and expands the definition of high-THC hemp products, which are more strictly regulated than others. Additionally, the bill creates a new category of THC, “which it classifies as an 'infused beverage' and must meet many requirements for manufacturers of hemp products,” according to an Office of Legislative Research report cited by CT News Junkie.

Bill sets the THC potency limit

The legislation sets a uniform concentration limit for hemp-derived products of one milligram of THC per serving. Products with more THC per serving than the limit would be classified as high THC products and would only be available at medical marijuana dispensaries or licensed cannabis retailers established after the legalization of recreational marijuana in Connecticut in 2021.

The bill also defines unregulated sales of cannabis and hemp products as violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, an amendment that makes it easier for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and the attorney general to remove unauthorized products from the market.

“We have to make sure that the rules are followed, that there is no product that is not regulated, that is sold to minors, that is sold in convenience stores, that is outside the strict structures that we have created.” said D'Agostino.

The legislation contains “provisions that now allow cities to go to court and attempt to close the doors of these vape shops that sell cannabis or other stores that sell illegal cannabis, and cities can receive a portion of the revenue and fines they receive in view of this enforcement,” said D'Agostino.

“If you are a city where cannabis is legal, the last thing you want is a vape shop next door selling an illegal competing product,” he added.

The bill regulating hemp products also establishes standards for labeling hemp products and changes some rules for cannabis cultivation by social equity licensees. D'Agostino noted that laws and regulations governing cannabis products and sales will continue to evolve, just as they have for other regulated products.

“Alcohol laws have evolved over the decades since the end of Prohibition. We’ve been in this process for three years,” D’Agostino said. “I've said it before, I'll say it again: We're going to keep coming back in this room to our cannabis laws and how they're evolving and how we respond to this market and make sure we stay in control of it .”

State Rep. Dave Rutigliano of Trumbull, the ranking Republican on the General Law Committee, is one of many Republican lawmakers who opposed marijuana legalization in Connecticut but voted for the bill regulating hemp products.

“It’s already legal. We can't make it illegal. That’s why we decided to try to regulate it in a way that makes the environment safer for everyone,” Rutigliano said. “Our goal this year, like last year, is to remove THC products, i.e. intoxicating products, from our supermarkets, convenience stores and gas stations to bring them to a place where they are regulated, taxed and controlled become.”

Anna Harden

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