Lawmakers in Connecticut on Tuesday took a big step toward banning out-of-state cannabis advertisements within its borders, with a bill easily winning approval in the House of Representatives.
The measure passed the state House by a vote of 98-48, according to the Associated Press, which said that the legislation seeks to prevent “anyone without a Connecticut cannabis-related license from advertising the product and cannabis-services within the state.”
The Associated Press reported that billboard ads have recently appeared on Connecitcut’s border with Massachusetts, where recreational cannabis is also legal for adults.
The move by lawmakers comes after Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said last year that he wanted to crack down on those billboards luring customers across the border to Massachusetts.
Local television station WTNH reported that Tong had “reached out to the billboard companies and dispensaries directly with mixed results.”
The bill that was passed by the Connecticut House of Representatives on Tuesday builds on the state’s legalization measure that was signed into law last year by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.
As in other states, parts of Connecticut’s new cannabis law took effect immediately, most notably the ability for adults aged 21 and older to have as many as 1.5 ounces of pot in their possession. Sales are expected to begin in the state next year.
When signed the bill into law last June, Lamont hailed it as a victory for civil rights.
“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety,” Lamont said in a statement at the time.
“By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states,” he added.
In addition to a ban on out-of-state cannabis ads, the bill that was passed by the House on Tuesday would also prohibit “Connecticut licensees from using images of the cannabis plant as well as from advertising on an illuminated billboard between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. and from advertising within 1,500 yards of a school or church,” according to the Associated Press.
“Look, I’m sick of seeing these billboards with cannabis leaves splayed all across them, within 1,500 yards across from a school or church or whatever. Can’t we do something more about that?” said Democratic state House Rep. Mike D’Agostino, as quoted by the Associated Press.
The bill also seeks to impose restrictions on “gifting,” through which retailers pay for a product like a T-shirt and are then given a “gift” of cannabis.
The practice has emerged as a go-to loophole for businesses operating in markets where cannabis has been legal, but regulated sales have not begun.
According to the Associated Press, “D’Agostino stressed that lawmakers are not banning people from giving someone a gift of marijuana, but rather trying to reign in these commercial exchanges.”
“You can gift to your friends and relatives. You can host a brownie party at your house,” D’Agostino said, as quoted by the Associated Press.
In his statement following the signing of the legalization bill last summer, Lamont said that the new law “will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs.”
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Billboards have been showing up on the border of Connecticut and Massachusetts, where adult-use cannabis is also legal.
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