Following a June 5 public hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) created the regulatory mechanism known as a “moratorium,” which allows the land use agency to suspend the filing of applications on certain specific types of land uses, if deemed necessary.
After that action, the P&Z then voted to enact such a one-year moratorium on applications for the local growing and/or dispensing of “medical marijuana.”
Although P&Z members had unanimously endorsed allowing moratoriums, when they then voted on placing such a one-year moratorium on applications for the local growing and/or dispensing of medical marijuana, P&Z member Donald Mitchell dissented.
No members of the public attended the P&Z’s hearing on the moratorium/marijuana topics.
In 2013, the state legislature approved the use of medical marijuana by prescription by patients who qualify under a set of legal/pharmacological rules.
In this area, Bethel land use officials recently approved allowing a firm known as D&B Wellness Inc to operate a medical marijuana dispensary on Garella Road there. That facility would be the only such dispensary in Fairfield County.
The Bethel approval allowed the firm to then obtain a state license for the dispensary. However, the Bethel approval for a dispensary is now being challenged through an appeal to that town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
At the start of the June 5 P&Z public hearing on moratoriums, George Benson, town director of planning and land use, told P&Z members that the town did not have any zoning regulations that would allow moratoriums, if needed.
Such a moratorium, in terms of medical marijuana, would give the P&Z time to evaluate the various issues pertaining to potential applications for marijuana growing facilities and marijuana dispensaries, P&Z Chairman Robert Mulholland said.
The state has excellent regulations covering the handling of medical marijuana, he said.
During the course of a one-year marijuana moratorium, P&Z members would review how the state’s medical marijuana regulations are implemented in municipalities across the state, he said.
In a motion to approve creating the device known as a moratorium, P&Z members unanimously agreed that such a mechanism is consistent with the purpose and intent of the 2014 Town Plan of Conservation and Development. The new regulation will take effect on June 16.
P&Z member David Ruhs said that he considers security matters stemming from medical marijuana to be a “major issue” in terms of local implementation of the state’s medical marijuana regulations.
Mr Benson said that Connecticut has the strongest regulatory controls over medical marijuana of any state in the US.
“This is a complex issue,” he said.
“There’s a lot that we don’t know [about medical marijuana] at this point in time,” Mr Mulholland said.
The chairman pointed out that Newtown is not the only town in the state placing a moratorium on medical marijuana applications.
Mr Mitchell observed that the state’s authority on the medical marijuana issue could override the town’s authority on the matter.
P&Z member Michael Porco, Sr, observed that while serving as a soldier in Vietnam, he saw the negative effects that recreational drug use had on the character of soldiers.
Mr Mulholland pointed out that placing a one-year moratorium on local medical marijuana applications would provide the P&Z with suitable time to evaluate the matter.
P&Z members then voted to approve a one-year moratorium on applications for medical marijuana growing/dispensary facilities, with Mr Mitchell opposed.
Mr Mitchell, an attorney, said he defers to the state on the need for medical marijuana.
The medical marijuana moratorium starts on June 16.
That moratorium allows the P&Z to suspend the filing of applications in order to allow the agency to evaluate the needs of the community, to evaluate future land use and growth, and to pass suitable regulations to implement solutions to specific concerns.
During the moratorium, the P&Z would evaluate the state regulations on medical marijuana and also consider the adoption of local zoning regulations on medical marijuana production and distribution, with the intent of maintaining public health and safety, convenience, and property values.
According to the P&Z’s new regulations, medical marijuana should be well regulated on the local level, in view of the state’s thorough regulations on the matter.
The P&Z has provided some definitions of the terms used in its new regulations.
“Medical marijuana production facility” means a secure, indoor facility where the production of marijuana occurs, and that is operated by a person to whom the state Department of Consumer Protection has issued a producer license in accordance with Section 21a-408-20 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.
“Medical marijuana dispensary facility” means a place of business where marijuana may be dispensed or sold at retail to qualifying patients and primary caregivers, and for which the state Department of Consumer Protection has issued a dispensary facility permit to an applicant in accordance with Section 21a-408-14 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.