While the fate of Connecticut’s weekly High Bazaar remains in limbo, a new anti-gifting bill could officially put an end to the Hamden-based cannabis festival.
“Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes, no person shall gift, sell or transfer cannabis to another person to induce, or in exchange for, any donation for any purpose, including, but not limited to, any charitable donation or any donation made to gain admission to any event,” said the bill, which was filed on Mar. 3.
House Bill 5329, would outlaw gifting cannabis in any scenario where there is also a donation made, either directly to a cannabis producer or in the form of an entrance fee.
It also outlaws any transfer of cannabis in a place of business outside of a license retailer or medical dispensary or a giveaway associated with attendance at any event.
The description of what is not permitted closely resembles the High Bazaar, a cannabis event that has been held almost every week in Hamden since adult use cannabis was just legalized in the state last summer.
The High Bazaar is not the state’s only recurring event where cannabis gifting takes places, but it has been Connecticut’s most prominent, especially after the event received critical coverage from local news media.
Shortly after those reports, the town issued a pair of cease and desist orders against the High Bazaar’s organizers.
The High Bazaar recently went on hiatus amid a legal fight with the Town of Hamden over zoning concerns created by the growing popularity and foot traffic generated by the event.
“My lawyer is working with the town’s lawyer to come up with a fair process. And then you know, move forward to town, you know, is where as long as we are in an area properly zoned for an event, the town will allow us to operate,” said High Bazaar founder Joseph Raymond Accettullo.
Originally, the High Bazaar organizers responded to the first cease and desist order by moving the event out of its indoor space and back to the open lot where it started last summer.
Accettullo defended his move as well as his event’s lack of permits on the fact that there was no clear guidance on what he was allowed to do.
“There was never really a clear path to begin with,” he said. “These type of events have never existed.”
Accettullo said that he is hoping the court case will cement how the Town of Hamden permits cannabis events in the future and he and the town can come to an agreement on the High Bazaar in time for it to return by the end of April.
“It’s definitely coming back,” he said.
One day after Accettullo spoke with Grown In, Connecticut’s joint General Law Committee introduced the anti-gifting bill on Mar. 3. Instead of the bill coming from a specific legislator, it was produced in committee. The bill’s first hearing is scheduled for Mar. 8.
The bill would also ban billboards from advertising cannabis businesses or products. A similar restriction was lambasted in MIchigan last fall and was eventually stalled in a state house committee.
Cannabis companies are already prohibited from advertising in a manner where more than 10% of the exposed audience were likely to be underage. The advertisement must be able to provide evidence of this statistic.
The bill, which was partially produced from recommendations from the state’s Social Equity Council, clarifies some of the requirements for Equity Joint Ventures. Specifically, companies that fail to create two EJV, will have to repay any licensing discounts they received and social equity applicants cannot be a part of more than one EJV. This would theoretically prevent a company from creating two EJVs with the same social applicant.
Finally, municipalities would be able to opt out of the state’s population cap for cannabis facilities, which is 1 retailer and 1 micro cultivator for every 25,000 residents. The municipalities would be able to allow more licenses on June 30, 2024.After an approved motion for a continuance, the next hearing in the case between the Town of Hamden and the High Bazaar will take place March 11.