Connecticut House passes bill that cracks down on gifting cannabis events

A bill passed in the Connecticut House Tuesday cracks down on so-called gifting events involving cannabis and will now head to the state Senate.
"It's where people go in, they pay a cover charge or they can buy a T-shirt and get an ounce of cannabis. Buy this and get that. It's a barter system," said state Rep. Mike D'Agostino.
It's a system that critics say evades Connecticut's retail licensing laws. The bill allows a "gift of cannabis between individuals with a bona fide social relationship, provided such gift is made without consideration and is not associated with any commercial transaction." Violators face up to $3,000 in state and local fines, but no criminal penalties.
Pro-cannabis groups say the bill punishes legitimate social events and further stigmatizes marijuana use.
"We will not stand for laws that come forward that tend to recriminalize or penalize the community," said Christina Capitan from CT CannaWarriors, which protested outside the State Capitol last week.
But D'Agostino says it's not exactly that.
"You can gift to your friends and relatives. You can host a brownie party at your house if you want to," he said.
The bill also removes an earlier ban on billboard advertising, but only during overnight hours. Only in-state dispensaries could advertise in Connecticut, and cannabis leaves would be banned from billboards. Ads could also not be located near schools.
In a major change, the legislation also lets towns have as many marijuana dispensaries as they want, which worries cannabis critics.
"I will go to my grave praying that I'm wrong. More children are going to get addicted -- they're going to die -- because of this legislation," said Republican state Rep. Tom O'Dea.
The legislation also expands Connecticut's medical marijuana industry. Physician assistants could now write prescriptions and medical licenses would be free after July 1, 2023.