Coronavirus and Cannabis: Connecticut Regulatory Updates

By Elliot Choi and Jacob Setton

Mar 24, 2020

This VS Insight is dedicated to updates regarding the coronavirus and cannabis in Connecticut. For updates on other states or coronavirus-related issues, see our main post on the subject, "Coronavirus and Cannabis: Monitoring the Impact."

Cannabis regulations are in flux across the U.S. as officials at every level of government work to contain the new coronavirus (COVID-19). Vicente Sederberg is closely monitoring the situation, and we are communicating with regulators to understand how these local, state and federal responses may affect cannabis business operators, medical patients, and other cannabis consumers. We are committed to doing everything we can to keep our clients and the public updated as we learn of new developments, but please note this is an extremely fluid situation and there is a lot we do not know. This VS Insights post is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal or tax advice. We strongly encourage you to contact an attorney if you are seeking advice regarding any specific legal or tax issue.


LATEST UPDATES

March 28, 2020

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Domestic Travel Advisory for Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, urging residents of those states to refrain from non-essential domestic travel. The advisory does not apply to employees of critical infrastructure industries, including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply.  In addition, the Governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have full discretion to implement the advisory.

March 26, 2020

  • Governor Lamont launched the Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program that provides $25 million in zero-interest loans to Connecticut businesses and nonprofits that have 100 or fewer employees to assist eligible businesses and nonprofits with cash flow. Loan amounts are up to the lesser of either three months operating expenses and/or $75,000. Unfortunately, ineligible companies include those involved in cannabis as well as real estate, multi-level marketing, adult entertainment, and firearms.

March 24, 2020

  • Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 7L enacting further provisions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the order includes modifications to the medical marijuana program to improve patient access and address staffing shortages in facilities. These modifications include:

    • Permitting a physician or an advanced practice registered nurse to certify a patient and provide follow-up care using telehealth services so long as all other requirements are met;

    • Extending the expiration date for any patient or caregiver registration that expires before June 1, 2020, by 90 days;

    • Permitting dispensary facility employees and laboratory employees to switch locations of employment between entities during the state of emergency;

    • Permitting the Department of Consumer Protection to replace a registration certificate for a patient or caregiver without charging a replacement fee;

    • Permitting a dispensary facility manager to work a reduced number of hours if approved by the Commissioner of Consumer Protection; 

    • Permitting a single dispensary facility manager to manage more than one dispensary facility under common ownership on the event that the dispensary facility manager at the other location(s) are unable to work as a result of the effects of COVID-19; and

    • Permitting a dispensary facility to increase the ratio of one dispensary for every three dispensary technicians on duty upon notice and approval by the Commissioner of Consumer Protection.

  • Note: The Commissioner of Consumer Protection may issue implementing orders and guidance that she deems necessary in order to implement the order.

March 22, 2020

  • Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 7J that, among other provisions, allows non-essential retailers to take orders remotely and sell products for curbside pickup and delivery.

    • As noted in the March 20 update, medical marijuana dispensaries and producers are essential businesses are not currently subject to this requirement, although it is possible that such requirements may be enacted with respect to essential businesses in the future.

March 20, 2020

  • Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 7H (called the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” initiative) providing further restrictions on non-essential businesses. The order directs all non-essential businesses and not-for-profit entities in Connecticut to prohibit all in-person functions if they are able to and are required to employ, to the maximum extent possible, any telecommuting or work-from-home procedures that they can safely implement. The governor’s order excludes any essential business or entity providing essential services or functions, such as healthcare, food service, law enforcement, and similar critical services.

  • The Governor’s office also released responses to Frequently Asked Questions on the State of Connecticut’s actions related to COVID-19. The FAQs included a list of essential business that included medical marijuana dispensaries and producers as essential healthcare and related operations. Medical marijuana dispensaries and producers may continue operations and are not otherwise subject to restrictions applicable to non-essential business.

March 18, 2020

  • Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 7F, ordering the closure of certain businesses in which many people congregate to hinder the spread of COVID-19. These businesses include:

    • Closure of large shopping malls, including any stores, pharmacies, restaurants, or other establishments located within or connected to the mall.

    • Closure of all public places of amusements, whether indoor or outdoor, except for public parks and open recreation areas.

  • Governor Lamont also announced that Pennsylvania has joined New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in establishing a regional uniform approach to social distancing.

March 16, 2020

  • Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 7D, implementing additional social distancing measures, including enacting the following provisions:

    • Prohibiting gatherings of 50 people or more;

    • Limiting restaurants and bars to take-out and delivery services only;

    • Closing all off-track betting facility operations; and

    • Closing any indoor gym, fitness center, or similar facility or studio offering fitness, sporting, or recreational opportunities or instructions, and all movie theaters.

  • Governor Lamont separately announced that small business and nonprofit organizations in Connecticut are eligible for disaster relief loans from the United States Small Business Administration.

    • However, the United States Small Business Administration has stated that cannabis businesses are not eligible for SBA loans even if the business is legal under state and local laws. The United States Small Business Administration has clarified that businesses that produce or sell hemp and hemp-derived products under the 2018 Farm Bill are eligible for SBA loans.

  • Governor Lamont also announced that Connecticut joined New Jersey and New York, in adopting a regional approach to combatting COVID-19.

March 15, 2020

  • Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 7C, which closed all public schools in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

March 12, 2020

  • Governor Lamont signed Executive Order No. 7, which included a prohibition on gatherings of 250 people or more for social and recreational activities.

March 10, 2020

  • Governor Lamont made Declarations of Public Health and Civil Preparedness Emergencies throughout the state of Connecticut as a result of COVID-19 outbreak. The declarations authorize the Governor to temporarily suspend certain state laws and regulations in order to quickly take deliberate actions in an effort to protect public health during the pandemic. This includes triggering laws prohibiting profiteering during emergencies.