Bill allowing CT hemp growers into cannabis industry approved by key panel

March 7, 2023 · Stamford Advocate

Connecticut’s hemp farmers would be allowed a path into the cannabis industry under legislation that passed overwhelmingly Tuesday in a key legislative committee.

The amended bill, which next moves to the state House of Representatives, would let dozens of small hemp growers apply for state cultivator or micro-cultivator licenses under the Department of Consumer Protection’s cannabis program. The legislative General Law Committee approved the bill after a brief debate.

The action occurred following a recent public hearing in which farmers said that during the few years they have been allowed to grow hemp – without the levels of THC that have made marijuana a federally controlled substance – they have shown skills that would make small batches of cannabis a niche product, which in the long term would not threaten the Connecticut market with a glut of product.

If approved in the House and state Senate and signed into law by the governor, hemp producers could apply for licenses between October 1 and December 31, allowing the Department of Consumer Protection time to prepare for their entry into the market. Farmers during the public hearing had also complained of the high price of entering the market.

Under the legislation, they would pay $12 per square foot of growing space: about $120,000 for 10,000 square feet of space for micro-cultivators. The most amount of grow space would be 80,000 square feet.

State Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said the biggest change in the bill was the fee base for the hemp farmers, who complained that the $1 million to $3 million license fees set by the Department of Consumer Protection essentially prices them out of the market. Many have been growing hemp since 2019, after it became legal around the country.

“We heard about how most of them could not meet that requirement anyway, in addition to all the other requirements they would have to meet in order to convert,” D’Agostino said. “The other significant change was to put an overall cap on the amount of total square foot acreage that hemp farmers licensed could produce at 250,000, something we could change down the road.”

While the number of hemp farmers at one point was around 200 – because of a product for CBD, the chemical compound used for over-the-counter products and therapies – a subsequent glut on the market has reduced the current number of Connecticut hemp farmers to fewer than 40.

“We’re trying to be mindful of a new entrant into the market; still having plenty of square-foot space for other applicants who are out there as part of the regular (application) process; making sure we’re not flooding the market but also still adding to the existing market,” D’Agostino said. “That was also based on input from the hemp farmers in terms of, frankly, what they could meet anyway.” (Full Story)

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