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Connecticut’s Marijuana Law – Some Do’s and Don’ts for Consumers

July 9, 2021 General

At long last, the Connecticut legislature has passed a bill legalizing the use, possession, purchase acquisition and cultivation of marijuana.  This is not to say, however, that there will be a marijuana free for all in Connecticut for there are several requirements and limitations that apply to all consumers. 

            First, in order to lawfully possess and use marijuana, you must be 21 years of age or older and you cannot have anymore than one and a half ounces on your person or five ounces in the trunk of your car, locked in a glove compartment or locked in a container at home.  Additionally, once licensed retailers are open to the general public, which is anticipated to be in late 2022, you will only be able to buy up to one ounce per day from the same retailer.  Possession by persons 18 years of age or younger will result in a written warning for the first offense and a referral to the Juvenile Court for subsequent offenses.  A person 19 to 20 years of age caught in possession of less than five ounces will be required to sign a statement acknowledging the health effects of marijuana and pay a $50.00 fine and for a subsequent offense a $150.00 fine.  If a 19 to 20 year old individual is caught in possession of five ounces or more of marijuana, the penalty would be having to sign a health statement and pay a $500.00 fine.  These obviously are not significant penalties; however, you must remember that just like alcohol in order to lawfully possess and use marijuana you must be 21 years of age and prepared to present a photo ID when attempting to purchase the same. 

            No person can manufacturer, grow, sell or distribute marijuana to another individual unless they are licensed to do so by the State of Connecticut; however, a consumer lawfully in possession of marijuana may transfer that marijuana to another person if the person reasonably thinks the other individual is lawfully entitled to possess the same.  In other words, if you are out on a social occasion with a friend of yours, it is not a crime to give your friend a legal quantity of marijuana (i.e., one and a half ounces or less) so long as the friend is of legal age.

            The law also permits consumers to cultivate marijuana with limitations.  Beginning in July 2023, an unlicensed individual may cultivate up to three mature and three immature marijuana plants at his or her primary residence so long as the plants are secured from access to any person other than the consumer and so long as no more than 12 plants are grown at any one time in a household.  In other words, this means, for example, that in a typical household the plants you may be growing have to be off limits to children under the age of 21 who are living in the household.

            The law breaks new ground with regard to automobiles.  Prior to the enactment of this legislation, the observation of individuals smoking marijuana or the odor of marijuana in a motor vehicle frequently was relied on by law enforcement officers as a basis for a motor vehicle stop, vehicle search and subsequent arrest.  It is important to remember that under our new marijuana law, smoking marijuana while driving or riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle remains strictly prohibited and violations of these provisions can result in misdemeanor charges being brought against the offenders.  Ironically, though, police officers are not permitted to stop a motor vehicle only for suspecting a passenger or operator of the vehicle is smoking while driving or while riding in the vehicle.  In addition, the new law prohibits (1) the odor or marijuana, possession or suspicion of possession of marijuana without evidence that the quantity is greater than five ounces or (2) the presence of cash money that is not in excess of $500.00 from providing probable cause to search a stopped vehicle.  Any evidence found as a result of a search in violation of this provision will be inadmissible in Court.

            Lastly, however, it is important to remember that operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana is illegal and carries with it the same penalties as operating under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.  A police officer can test an operator based on the odor of marijuana if at the time he reasonably suspects the operator is under the influence of the same.