Connecticut Legal Loophole Allows THC Seltzers at Liquor Stores

Liquor stores in Connecticut—not licensed cannabis retail stores—are selling THC-infused drinks such as seltzers legally, due to a legal loophole regarding dosages listed on the cans.

Cannabis retail stores are selling cans listed as one serving, but the same cans of cannabis-infused seltzer, usually running in sizes from 7.5 – 12 ounces, are labeled as five servings in a package at a liquor store or market.

All they have to do is ensure that each serving contains less than 1 mg of THC per serving and they can sell the seltzers without violating state law. CT Insider reports that when the drinks are labeled as five servings rather than one, they are technically legal to be sold anywhere in the state, so long as other elements of the packaging are in line with state rules.

“You can sell that in a local convenience store. It’s a seltzer. It doesn’t have any alcohol in it. It is a non-alcoholic beverage,” said Larry Cafero, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut executive director, and former Republican leader in Connecticut’s House of Representatives. “The manufacturer, in order to get around a Connecticut law, is creating stickers that turns a 12-ounce can that they had initially labeled as one serving into multiple servings, so that they could comply with the THC-per-serving standard.”

“So, we have this little loophole,” he said.

State authorities confirmed they are operating within the scope of law.

Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) clarified that the drinks are indeed legal. “A package containing less than 1 milligram of THC per serving and less than 5 milligram per package is not considered cannabis, and may be produced and sold without a license,” DCP spokesperson Kaitlyn Krasselt confirmed. 

Connecticut legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021 and later became available for purchase by adults at retail outlets in January 2023. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in June 2021, ending the prohibition on possession of cannabis by adults 21 and older and creating a framework for regulated adult-use cannabis sales. The bill also included restorative justice and social equity measures, including provisions that led to the expungement of nearly 43,000 marijuana-related convictions

“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,” said state Rep. Michael D’Agostino (D-Hamden), who is also chairman of the legislature’s general law committee. 

The current plan is to drop the THC limit to .5 mg per container, D’Agostino said. Any products containing more THC than that would only be available in licensed cannabis retail outlets.

“The question is, what is cannabis or not cannabis right now? The products that do not meet the definition, i.e. under 5 milligrams of THC per container, are not cannabis and therefore they’re not subject to the cannabis laws,” D’Agostino said. “But once we change this and lower the threshold, even more of those laws will apply.”

DCP issued further guidance recently to liquor stores in the state, clarifying that while THC-infused seltzers are legal to sell, they cannot be labeled as “cannabis.” That includes seltzers labeled as “canna-beverage.” As a result, some liquor stores began removing products from their shelves after receiving the guidance. 

The legislative session convenes Feb. 7.

Cannabis consumers in the state are now able to purchase larger amounts per transaction. Connecticut’s cannabis regulatory agency announced in November 2023 that it is increasing the amount of cannabis that can be bought in a single transaction by doubling the state’s limit on recreational marijuana purchases. Under the new regulations approved by the Connecticut DCP, adult-use cannabis consumers will be permitted to purchase up to a half-ounce, or about 14 grams, of cannabis flower or its equivalent beginning in December 2023. 

Medical cannabis in the state is another story. The limit on purchases of medical cannabis has not been changed. It remains at 5 ounces of cannabis flower or the equivalent monthly, with no limits on purchases in a single transaction.

“DCP has continually reviewed available supply and demand since prior to the launch of the adult-use cannabis industry in January 2023,” DCP Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli said in a statement. “As more retailers, production companies and other supply chain licensees have come online, the capacity of the industry has increased. We are confident this measured approach to adult-use sales has resulted in a healthy market for businesses, and a safe and fair marketplace for adult-use cannabis consumers and medical marijuana patients.”

Details are being ironed out regarding where cannabis seltzers can be sold in the state.

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