For the first time, in Hamden people are getting together in public to enjoy cannabis.
“It’s a great day that Connecticut finally legalized marijuana, hemp, whatever, and you don’t have to get in trouble for a medicinal product,” said Emilio Cucciniello of Hamden. “We don’t have the anxiety anymore from the police for carrying something that is much less worse than alcohol.”
As of July 1, possession of 1.5 ounce is legal in the state, but there are some rules.
In New Haven, existing tobacco ordinances now include cannabis, so it’s banned wherever cigarettes are.
“In city parks, on school properties, playgrounds, places like that,” said Mayor Justin Elicker.
That includes the New Haven Green and Lighthouse Point Park, and within 25 feet of doors and windows of public buildings.
He says the city rarely gives citations for tobacco and he is hopeful people will continue to be respectful smokers, and not take advantage of the relaxed enforcement.
“If that happens and it starts to impact a lot of people, we may start to issue infractions and start to do additional enforcement,” Elicker said.
On the flip side of restrictions, retail sales could start a year from now in July 2022. Some of those state dollars will go toward public health efforts.
“Revenue from these types of sales will be able to have some type of proceeds around prevention and addiction services,” said New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond.
Bond says the department has already started a public outreach campaign to raise awareness of the use of cannabis and the dangers for groups like children, pets and breastfeeding moms.
“We want to make sure that we have an education campaign because people need to understand the facts about the risk of consuming too much of it.”
Kebra Smith-Bolden owns CannaHealth, a medicinal cannabis dispensary.
“I advocated for legalization even though it could hurt my business a little bit because of the overall good that it could bring,” said Smith-Bolden, a registered nurse.
She started her business after seeing the health benefits her grandmother experienced while taking medical cannabis. She wanted to extend access and social justice to the people of New Haven. The next closest dispensary was in Monroe.
“Elderly people who are just afraid of opioids because of everything that’s been happening over the last decade and they want to try safe plant-based medicine,” Smith-Bolden said. “And (there are) young people who are over 21 and dealing with symptoms of PTSD.”
She offers the medication and referrals for mental health therapy, which she says is needed.
“If you are born and raised in the inner city, have experienced disparities in health care education, finances, have been to prison. These are all things that create trauma,” Smith-Bolden said.
She believes people will still look for treatment and therapy, so she says she’s not too concerned about losing business to the recreational market.