In Connecticut, the “HighBazaar” is a private cannabis event that has been held since 2022. The Masonic Temple Day Spring Lodge in Hamden hosts these events, which in the past has attracted hundreds or even thousands of people. The event is what many news outlets and politicians call a cannabis “gifting party,” where attendees pay a fee for entry and can purchase cannabis accessories or obtain “gifts” that come with cannabis.
Now, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is claiming that the event violates state law. Tong recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to HighBazaar event hosts Joseph Accetulo and Cody Roberts. “Our office has become aware that you are involved in organizing recurring, unlicensed cannabis markets under the name HighBazaar. It appears that these events involve the illegal marketing and sale of cannabis outside of the regulated market and that the events are accessible to individuals under the age of 21,” stated the cease-and-desist letter. “These events appear to violate the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), General Statutes § 42-110a, et seq., the Responsible and Equitable Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis Act, General Statutes § 21a-420, et seq., and/or other applicable laws and regulations. We request that you cease holding these events immediately. If you do not do so, our office will explore all legal options.”
Neither hosts have commented on the letter yet, but CT Insider spoke with Christina Capitan, CT CannaWarriors founder who has previously been involved with HighBazaar. Capitan described Tong and his office are “against us in service of a corporate monopoly puts [former Gov.] Ned Lamont as the Face of the Drug War 2.0.” “While we are disappointed, we are not surprised, as this is simply a continuation of Gov. Lamont’s efforts to criminalize cannabis home growers while simultaneously denying anyone without millions the ability to get a legal license in Connecticut,” Capitan said.
Another CannaWarriors member, Ivellise Correa, explained the harmless nature of the events. “It’s just a flower. We’re not selling crack. This is a craft cannabis community,” Correa said.
Not everyone is happy with the current state of Connecticut’s cannabis industry. Louis Rinaldo told CT Insider why now is the time to reevaluate these cannabis events. “It’s time for us to collectively pivot to a more populist solution, one that opens up the market to local small craft producers and caregivers,” Rinaldo said.
While the HighBazaar has remained private, it has created a stark divide between advocates and politicians. “On one side we have a group of advocates whose net impact on cannabis policy has been regressive, after flaunting their exploitation of the gifting loophole and forcing state legislators to close it,” Rinaldo explained. “On the other side, we have elected officials who instead of serving the people, serve as enforcers of market share protectionism for the state’s four incumbent licensed producers. All while frustrated patients and consumers continue to source from outside Connecticut’s regulated market due to ongoing quality, pricing, and trust concerns.”
Recreational cannabis sales launched in Connecticut in January 2023, allowed existing medical cannabis dispensaries to be licensed to sell adult-use cannabis. Immediately after sales began though, some legislators proposed changes to the state cannabis program, including new application fees.
In February, Attorney General Tong sued five retailers for conducting delta-8 THC cannabis products sales under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Cannabis products in Connecticut cannot be sold by unlicensed retailers and must meet rigorous testing and packaging requirements. Period,” said Tong. “Any unlicensed Connecticut retailer selling delta-8 THC products that purport to contain high levels of THC is breaking the law and may be subject to both criminal and civil penalties.”
Meanwhile, adult-use cannabis sales in Connecticut continue to rise. As of December 2023, annual cannabis sales earned between January 2023-November 2023 reached $127 million. That includes an increase in monthly sales for every month last year, with January kicking off sales at $5.1 million, followed by increases in February ($7.02 million), March ($9.6 million), April ($10.2 million), May ($11.5 million), June ($12.5 million), July ($13 million), August ($14 million), September ($14.3 million), October ($14.7 million), and November ( $15.3 million). Data for December 2023 sales has not yet been reported by the Department of Consumer Protection.
Medical cannabis on the other hand, has been fluctuating slightly in overall sales, with the lowest income recorded in January 2023 with $8.2 million, and the highest set at $12.6 million in March 2023.
Recently in December 2023 though, where alcohol sales are prohibited on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, cannabis sales were still permitted. “And, because we regulate many things you may be wondering about, Connecticut Law does not prohibit the sale of cannabis, or limit your ability to place wagers during the holidays,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli. “No matter how you choose to spend the holidays, please know your limit, arrange designated drivers and be respectful of the establishments and communities where you celebrate.”