Connecticut legalized cannabis in 2021 and opened its first retail outlets for adult-use sales in January 2023. However, some liquor stores and markets in the state have been selling cannabis-infused seltzers for months, without a license or regulation. How is this possible? The answer lies in a legal loophole that involves the serving size of the products.
The THC-per-serving Standard
According to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), a package containing less than 1 milligram of THC per serving and less than 5 milligrams per package is not considered cannabis, and may be produced and sold without a license. This means that any product that meets this criteria can be sold in any store, regardless of whether it is licensed to sell cannabis or not.
Some manufacturers of cannabis seltzers have taken advantage of this loophole by creating products that contain fewer than 5 milligrams of THC overall and labeling them as having more than 5 servings, regardless of the product’s volume. For example, a 12-ounce can of seltzer that contains 4.5 milligrams of THC can be labeled as having 9 servings, each containing 0.5 milligrams of THC. This way, the product complies with the THC-per-serving standard and can be sold in liquor stores and markets.
The Loophole’s Impact on the Cannabis Market
The loophole has allowed some liquor stores and markets to sell cannabis seltzers under the radar, without paying taxes or fees to the state, or following the rules and regulations that apply to licensed cannabis retailers. This creates an unfair advantage for these stores over the licensed cannabis outlets, which have to comply with strict standards and pay high costs to operate.
The loophole also poses a risk to consumers, who may not be aware of the THC content or potency of the products they are buying. Unlike the licensed cannabis retailers, which have to test and label their products for quality and safety, the liquor stores and markets that sell cannabis seltzers do not have to follow any such requirements. This means that the products may not be accurately labeled, or may contain contaminants or additives that could harm the consumers.
The loophole also undermines the state’s efforts to regulate and control the cannabis market, and to prevent underage access and misuse of the products. The DCP has issued guidance to liquor stores, clarifying that while THC-infused seltzers are legal to sell, they cannot be labeled as “cannabis” or “canna-beverage”. The DCP has also warned that selling these products to minors is illegal and punishable by law.
The Loophole’s Future
The loophole that allows THC seltzers to be sold in liquor stores and markets in Connecticut is not likely to last for long. State lawmakers are planning to address the issue in the upcoming legislative session, by reducing the THC limit for retail products sold in the state without a cannabis license to 0.5 milligrams per container. This would effectively close the loophole and make the products illegal to sell without a license.
State Rep. Michael D’Agostino, who chairs the General Law Committee that oversees cannabis regulation, said that the loophole was an unintended consequence of the law, and that the committee is working to fix it. He said that the committee is constantly monitoring the cannabis market and making adjustments as needed.
“This is constantly evolving, and we realized as a committee that we’ve got to get further ahead of this so that’s why this session we’re going to be changing that definition to make it even just a more bright line rule,” he said.