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I-TEAM INVESTIGATION: Lawmakers work to close loopholes that led to cannabis gifting bazaars

Cannabis gifting parties Channel 3 first uncovered as part of an I-Team Investigation may soon be a thing of the past.
Updated: Mar. 22, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT
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HAMDEN, CT (WFSB) - Cannabis gifting parties Channel 3 first uncovered as part of an I-Team Investigation may soon be a thing of the past.

The I-Team recently covered one such party in Hamden. Now, the events caught the attention of lawmakers who are trying to close those loopholes.

Connecticut’s cannabis legislation includes “gifting.”

“You can give it to a friend, to your relative,” explained state Rep. Mike D’Agostino, a Democrat who represents Hamden. “You can even host a book club at your house and bake brownies for your friends.”

However, some lawmakers called one form of gifting too extreme.

In January, the I-Team brought viewers to “High Bazaar,” where each Saturday, thousands would gather at a warehouse in Hamden.

Medicinal patients would get in for free.

Non-patients would pay $20.

Inside, vendors and patrons would “gift” cannabis in exchange for “donations.”

“If you see something you like, you talk to them about it and they’ll say, ‘if you want it, go ahead take it, if you want to make a donation, go ahead,’” said Matt, a patron at the bazaar. “If not, you can still have it.”

D’Agostino said what was happening in his hometown did not abide by the spirit of the state’s law. He said “gifting” was never meant to include a cash transaction between two strangers.

“It really is a commercial transaction,” he said. “That’s what it is.”

After the I-Team’s report, the Town of Hamden filed an injunction against High Bazaar after realizing the warehouse was zoned for a capacity of nine people.

The bazaar has not reopened since.

“We spent a long time, several years, working very hard to create a structured, regulated environment for cannabis sales in Connecticut,” D’Agostino said. “These bazaars are a way around that.”

D’Agostino said he is introducing an amendment that tweaks the gifting aspect of the law.

“I want to be very clear here. We are not preventing gifting. We’ve never prevented gifting between friends and family,” he said.

D’Agostino said the amendment is only going after organized events.

“That’s for safety, that’s for making sure that everyone is working within the system we’ve created,” he said.

High Bazaar organizers did not return the I-Team’s calls or texts for its follow up report, but when it last spoke with them, the one thing they stressed to Channel 3 was equity.

They didn’t want big companies to corner the cannabis market.

D’Agostino said there’s a way for the bazaar vendors to still have a piece of the cannabis pie. It’s called micro-cultivating.

“Let’s say you’re a medical patient and a particular type of cannabis treats your malady in a particular way,” he said. “You can grow that strain for yourself, and you can sell small amounts of it.”

D’Agostino said microcultivators are separate from the home-growing aspect of the law, which limits people to three plants.

He also said there are other avenues for the bazaar organizers to explore.

“There’s opportunities for many of them to be anything from microcultivators to creating delivery services to being small distributors,” D’Agostino said.

As far as the efforts to close the state law’s loopholes, the amendment will be heard by the state House of Representatives.

If passed, it will go to the state Senate; however, the legislative session ends in the first week of May, so time is ticking.