Day One of Legalization in Connecticut Brings Mandates for Public Weed Smoking Zones

Today marks legal cannabis in Connecticut, resulting in “smoking zones” mandates for some larger towns and cities as a way to manage the newly legal industry.

The legalization of cannabis officially going into effect today in Connecticut, which includes provisions and mandates that set aside designated marijuana smoking zones in larger towns and cities that choose to regulate smoking pot.

State lawmakers passed the comprehensive legislation earlier this month, and the bill was signed by Democratic Governor Ned Lamont on June 22 and officially became the law of the land. Possession and use of recreational marijuana will become legal for adults on July 1, although regulated sales of adult-use cannabis products are not expected to begin until next year.

As cannabis legalization has spread across the nation, regulations in states early to adopt reforms have been criticized by some advocates for failing to include provisions for legal use in public and measures that address the impact of the War on Drugs on communities of color. Before signing Connecticut’s bill, Lamont praised the social equity measures in the legislation.

“We had a chance to learn from others, and I think we got it right here in the state of Connecticut,” Lamont said last week. “We weren’t the first but we were the first to show we can get it right.”

To provide more adults the opportunity to consume cannabis legally, the legislation includes language and mandates that require larger municipalities that regulate smoking cannabis in public to provide a designated area for smoking marijuana. The provision applies to cities and towns with a population of at least 50,000. Smaller towns are permitted to ban smoking in public without making such accommodation for cannabis smokers.

Mandates in New Haven

In New Haven, Connecticut, with a population of more than 130,000, civic leaders are in the process of determining how the state’s new cannabis law will affect the city.

“We’re following the changes in the state law, which basically allows for the recreational use of marijuana,” New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker told local media on Tuesday, noting that the city has not passed a local ban on smoking cannabis.

“At this point, we are not considering implementing additional restrictions on the smoking of marijuana, so should you choose to do so, can smoke in public areas,” Elicker said.

Mandates Include Restrictions On All Types Of Smoking

The mayor noted that while New Haven has not yet enacted a local smoking ordinance or any other official mandates, the state cannabis legalization law includes new restrictions on all types of smoking. The legislation includes a broad definition of smoking that covers any lighted cigarette, pipe, cigar or device containing tobacco, cannabis or hemp, including e-cigarettes and vaporizers.

“I think it’s important for the public to know the restrictions around the law because there are places that people aren’t allowed to smoke,” Elicker said. “The most important thing is to just be respectful.”

Under the newly introduced bill, all types of smoking are prohibited in schools, government buildings, bars, hotels, motels, restaurants, healthcare settings, retail food establishments, college dorms and many other public and private facilities. The ban also extends to the “outside area within 25 feet of any doorway, operable window or air intake vent” of such locations, making smoking both tobacco and cannabis illegal on many sidewalks and other outdoor public areas.

“Our understanding of the law is that in places where smoking cigarettes is prohibited, marijuana will also be prohibited,” Elicker said.

Lindsey Chartrand, the owner of the Cake, Batter & Roll Bakery in Middletown, said that she supports the new restrictions on all types of smoking near businesses.

“I would think it would have to have a positive impact with the increase in outdoor dining,” Chartrand said. “I think people don’t want to have to experience the smells that are associated with smoking cigarettes or weed.”

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