Cannabis advocates handed out joints at the State Capitol Tuesday in protest of a bill that would ban large marijuana gifting events like the one they held on the Capitol lawn.
“To peacefully assemble and voice our concerns and show our support publicly. And to also do this at the Capitol and say we’re here. We’re right out front. You want to talk to us, please come outside, whether you want to smoke with us or not, that's at your own discretion, said Duncan Markovich, of Branford.
He says the proposed bill would recriminalize the drug.
“The spirit of that clause and the legalization part of last year’s bill. That’s what this is about. It’s peace. It’s well-being,” Markovich said.
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Lawmakers listened to cannabis advocates – sort of.
“We made absolutely clear this does not apply to what goes on in the privacy of your home. If it’s a family member giving to another family member nobody's policing that,” said Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden.
D'Agostino says what they don’t want to see are these organized bazaars.
“This language was meant to get at these gifting bazaars that are marketplaces. People go in with the intention of really buying and selling cannabis, but they do it under the auspices of a donation and they get some cannabis in return,” D’Agostino said.
The bill received broad support from the committee.
“Last year, we allowed for recreational cannabis to be sold in the state legally. This prevents folks trading off, putting up a tent, and just having a hay day.”
Cannabis advocates are not pleased.
“There is no avenue at all for the cannabis community to gather and gift and donate so we’re created our own and we’re happy to adhere to limitations and whatever the state needs of us but we ask they simply don’t outright ban this incredibly important thing,” Erin Doolittle said.
The committee did change the punishment from a criminal penalty with a $10,000 fine to a civil penalty with a $2,500 fine.
“This is something that was never intended and I think we’ve come a long way in the state to address the availability of cannabis, but do it so legally,” said Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton.
But advocates say it misses the point of legalization.
“It’s like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. It's here. It’s happening, and to think people are going to fully stop is a little naive. They’ll just go back underground,” Doolittle said.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration.