Though cannabis has been legalized in Connecticut, no store in the state is yet licensed to sell it.
State law also mandates that all nicotine products be kept behind store counters.
Stores must also post notices about the legality of sales of nicotine and THC products.
It is illegal to sell vaping products within 500 feet of a residential area or house of worship.
Yet all of those laws and regulations are being broken in Westport.
That’s the conclusion of an “Environmental Scan of Westport Smoke Shops.” It was conducted recently by Ben Fitzgerald of Prevention Corps and Rachalle Ubaldo of Positive Directions. The results were presented Tuesday, to the Westport Prevention Coalition.
Fitzgerald and Ubaldo visited 6 Westport smoke shops, gas stations and convenience stores. The project was coordinated with the Westport Police Department.
Names of the businesses were not included in the report.
The pair spoke to clerks to learn about popular products. They also attempted to make purchases, to see if they would be carded.
Only 3 of the businesses were registered with the state to sell electronic nicotine delivery systems (also called e-cigarettes or vape pens), or vapor products. Five of the stores were within 500 feet of a residential area; 3 were within 500 feet of a house of worship. Three did not store all nicotine products behind the counter.
Three of the 6 stores carried pipes, rolling papers and bongs, Fitzgerald and Ubaldo said.
Possession of 1 1/2 ounces of cannabis is now legal in Connecticut, for people 21 and older. However, retail sales have not yet begun. It is also still illegal to grow cannabis at home, except with a medical marijuana license.
Three of the 6 stores did not card Fitzgerald and Ubaldo. A clerk at one store asked if they were “back from school,” while ringing up THC products. Sale of those products is illegal under state and local law.
According to the Prevention Coalition duo, one wellness store sold edibles (gummies) with 15 mg of THC each. State law will cap the serving of one edible at 5 mg.
Two stores carried Delta-8 THC products. Another — which the duo planned to visit — advertised Delta-8 on its website.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, Delta-8 is a psychoactive substance. It has not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use in any context.
Delta-8 “may be marketed in ways that put the public health at risk and should especially be kept out of reach of children and pets,” the agency says.
One store told Fitzgerald and Ubaldo that Delta-8 is illegal, but offered Delta-9 — the most abundant form of THC in cannabis plants — as an alternative.
Three of the 6 stores carried still-illegal TCH products, such as edibles dab pens and cartridges.
At one store, a clerk pushed the conversation toward TCH. “Does your friend vape nicotine or … something else?” he asked.
Though state law requires signage about carding — including notice that giving or selling nicotine/THC products to minors (under 21) is illegal; fake IDs are illegal, and there are fines for illegal purchases — 3 stores displayed no signs. They were also the stores that did not card Fitzgerald and Ubaldo.
Two other stores displayed incomplete signage.
Following the pair’s presentation, Prevention Coalition attendees talked about next steps. Among them: police coordination with state agencies to take enforcement action (including fines and license forfeiture), and discussion by the Board of Selectwomen.
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