HARTFORD – The state House has voted overwhelmingly to close a loophole that lawmakers say allows stores to sell certain cannabis products beyond Connecticut’s legal limits.
While traveling to the state Capitol on Tuesday, State Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said he stopped at a CBD store to buy two packages of gummies with levels of THC – the compound in marijuana that gives users a high – far beyond the legal limit for gummies sold in Connecticut’s licensed marijuana retailers.
Despite not being sold by a licensed retailer and having double the amount of THC that Connecticut allows in marijuana gummies, D’Agostino said the products were completely legal.
“The pure CBD stuff, I’ve got no qualms,” he said. “The worry is when it’s a higher THC product, and you’ve got 90 [gummies] in a jar, not individually packaged, somebody can [take the whole bottle at once].”
In 2018, Congress legalized the growing and sale of hemp – a term for cannabis plants that have negligible amounts of the THC that causes the high from marijuana. To distinguish the two types of cannabis, the law sets a limit of 0.3 percent THC in hemp plants “on a dry weight basis.”
But that measurement is for the plant, not gummies, tinctures and other products that producers have been using legal hemp to produce, D’Agostino said.
Those producers contend the “dry weight basis” limit does not include moisture, oils and other components of their products. That loophole is a “door you can drive a truck through” and has allowed them to sell compliant products with high levels of THC, D’Agostino said.
The House of Representatives voted 148-1 to pass a bill that D’Agostino said would close that loophole. Instead of setting a limit by weight, products sold outside of licensed retailers would be capped at 1 milligram of THC per serving, and 5 milligrams per package.
The bill would also ban synthetic cannabinoids like the delta-8 products sold in some gas stations and smoke shops. Attorney General William Tong announced last month he would also be stepping up enforcement efforts in these areas.
D’Agostino admitted it would take products off the shelves of legal businesses that stocked up while they were legal to sell, and that the bill has faced opposition from CBD stores that sell the products and some hemp farmers who sell hemp to manufacturers.
State Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Granby, the lone representative to vote against the bill, said the bill goes too far regulating hemp, to the detriment of the 70 “emerging” hemp farmers in Connecticut.
He said a hemp farmer in his district told him the bill would remove some of his products. Anderson added that setting limits by milligrams per serving and package is “completely arbitrary” because someone could just sell products in smaller containers.
He proposed an amendment that would exempt “manufacturer hemp products” that have a high ratio of CBD to THC, and have total THC content less than 0.3 percent, which he said would affect far fewer of the products sold by CBD stores and hemp producers. It would also set an age limit of 21 to buy CBD products, he said.
Anderson urged the House to approve his amendment “for the sake of our emerging hemp farmers, for the sake of small business, [and] for consumers who believe they derive benefit from these products.”
But D’Agostino argued that, even with Anderson’s amendment, stores would still be allowed to sell packages of gummies or other products that exceed the amount of THC customers can buy in a package from a licensed retailer.
D’Agostino said the issue is the product, not the producer, and instead wants to pass bills that would help hemp farmers – such as one that would give them a share of the marijuana growing marketplace.
“We’re not pulling all of these THC-infused products off the market. Below 1 milligram per serving and below 5 milligrams per package, those will still be on the marketplace,” D’Agostino said. “But once you start getting into different standards – a ratio standard, a dry weight standard – you open the door for these THC-infused CBD products to become cannabis [marijuana] products. That’s what they are.”
D’Agostino said the bill would make it easier for police and the attorney general to enforce restrictions on THC products, because they’ll have a clear standard that allows them to look at a label and immediately see whether the product is allowed.
State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, who has been a vocal opponent of legalized marijuana because of her concerns about its impact on young people, said she wished the state had “locked that barn door and never let the horse out.”
But she noted it’s the legislature’s duty to constantly revisit laws and make them better, if possible. And now that marijuana is legal, she said it’s an issue they are going to have to revisit “year after year after year.”