Connecticut House Approves Bill Regulating Hemp Products

Connecticut lawmakers have passed legislation to regulate hemp products, including a provision that sets a minimum age of 21 to purchase high-THC products.

The Connecticut House of Representatives this week passed a bill to regulate ingestible hemp products, with lawmakers saying the legislation is 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 in the legislature by the House General Law Committee. The legislation now heads to the Connecticut Senate for consideration.

Hemp agriculture and products made from hemp were legalized more than five years ago with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill by the U.S. Congress. Since then, a multitude of ingestible hemp products, many with intoxicating cannabinoids, have been introduced to the market, with widespread availability at retailers including convenience stores, gas stations and smoke shops. Representative Mike D’Agostino, one of the lead sponsors of the bill, said that legislation is needed to put controls on the unregulated market for hemp-derived cannabinoid products.

“We can’t ban them, but we can regulate the hell out of them,” said Democratic Representative Mike D’Agostino, the co-chair of the General Law Committee, according to a report from the Hartford Courant. “We say, OK, those products need to be manufactured in accordance with our standards. They need to be labeled in accordance with our standards they have to be to have disclosures in accordance with our standards.”

The legislation would regulate hemp products including THC-infused beverages, limiting the sale of certain products to adults age 21 and older. The bill also redefines and expands the definition of high-THC hemp products, which are more tightly regulated than others. Additionally, the bill establishes a new category of THC “which it classifies as an ‘infused beverage’ and requires it to meet many of the requirements for manufacturers of hemp products,” according to an Office of Legislative Research report cited by CT News Junkie.

Bill Sets THC Potency Limit

The legislation sets a uniform potency 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, which would only be available at medical marijuana dispensaries or licensed cannabis retailers, which were established following 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, a change that makes it easier for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and the attorney general to take unauthorized products off the market.

“We need to make sure that the rules are being followed, that there’s not a product out there that is unregulated, that is being sold to minors, that is being sold in convenience stores, that is outside of the strict structures that we created,” D’Agostino said.

The legislation includes “provisions that allow towns to now go to court and seek to shutter the doors of these vape shops that are selling cannabis or other stores that are selling illegal cannabis, and the towns can get a piece of the revenue and fines that can be levied with respect to that enforcement,” according to the D’Agostino.

“If you’re a town that’s approved legal cannabis, the last thing you want is next door a vape shop that’s selling a competing illegal product,” he added.

The hemp product regulation bill also sets standards for the labeling of hemp products and amends some rules governing the cultivation of cannabis by social equity licensees. D’Agostino noted that the laws and regulations governing cannabis products and sales will continue to evolve, just as they have for other regulated products.

“The liquor laws have been evolving over time for decades since Prohibition ended. We’re three years into this process,” D’Agostino said. “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: We’re going to keep coming back and back in this chamber with respect to our cannabis laws and how they evolve and how we respond to that marketplace and make sure we remain in control of it.”

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

“It’s already legal. We can’t make it unlegal. So what we’ve decided to do is try to regulate it in a way that makes a safer environment for everyone,” Rutigliano said. “Our goal this year, as it was last year, is to get THC products, intoxicating products out of our supermarkets, convenience stores and gas stations, to put it in a place where it’s regulated, where it’s taxed and controlled.”

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