Although recreational cannabis became legal for adults in Connecticut earlier this summer and a schedule of retail cannabis sales was set by the end of 2022, several coastal cities have taken legislative action to temporarily – or permanently, in Clinton’s case – ban cannabis facilities .
Guilford, Madison and North Branford recently issued moratoriums preventing cannabis facilities from opening in the city for nine months to a year. Clinton, meanwhile, has enacted an ordinance banning the use of cannabis in connection with land use, prohibiting the use of buildings, structures, or land as a cannabis operation, producer, retailer, pharmacy, and more.
A cannabis business is defined as a producer, pharmacy, breeder, microcultivator, retailer, hybrid trader, food and beverage manufacturer, product manufacturer, product packer and delivery service or carrier under Public Act 21-1.
Clinton’s Town Manager Karl Kilduff wrote in an email Thursday that the Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing in September on an ordinance designed to allow a marijuana facility within the meaning of state law.
Under state law, local officials can zoning control the number and location of cannabis retailers and determine where smoking and vaping is allowed.
“At the public hearing, there was overwhelming opposition to the proposed regulation, and the Planning and Zoning Commission then rejected the regulation allowing marijuana operations,” Kilduff wrote.
At the hearing, 15 of the 17 speakers opposed the rule that allowed facilities, including David Melillo, director of Clinton Human Services and Vincent DeMaio, Clinton’s chief of police. Only one person felt neutral and one was in favor of allowing branches.
DeMaio said he had a number of public safety concerns related to the regulation, including the “serious black market” he would create in recreational cannabis. He cited a recent $ 100 million bailout California gave to the legal cannabis industry because it was struggling to compete with the black market, he said.
“This is going to come to our town because I’m sure Madison won’t have one, Guilford won’t have one, Westbrook probably won’t have one,” DeMaio said of cannabis establishments. “We would be the only town on the coast.”
The city council then discussed the issue and its own authority under state law to pass a local ordinance before drafting one and holding a public hearing, Kilduff wrote.
“The council’s public hearing saw strong support for the regulation banning marijuana operations as land use,” Kilduff wrote on Thursday. “The ordinance was then unanimously approved by the local council.”
Clinton’s current zoning regulations also prohibit medical marijuana facilities.
Guilford First Selectman Matt Hoey wrote in an email on Thursday that the moratorium allows this city to fully engage and discuss in the community.
He wrote that Guilford’s organization Developmental Assets for Youth was calling for a permanent ban that the Chosen’s Board would not consider without being given more informed decision-making criteria.
“In their query, it was mentioned that such a ban would send a message to teenagers and their parents about the risks, particularly those related to brain development, when using cannabis,” Hoey wrote on Thursday.
Paige Checci, a Guilford resident with a master’s degree in medical cannabis science and therapy from the University of Maryland Baltimore, said in a recording from an Oct. 18 board of directors of the Selectman meeting.
“A prerequisite for the application is local support and the approval of the development. If this moratorium extends to the time the Department of Consumer Protection begins accepting applications, Guilford may miss an opportunity to bring jobs and commerce to the community, ”Checci said on the meeting tapping.
Checci said she understood local residents’ concerns about retail, but spoke specifically about production, cultivation, manufacturing and business-to-business trading.
She suggested that the PZC review each application on a case-by-case basis and go through a conditional or special use process.
“I don’t think we should say no to jobs, trade and good business,” said Checci. “Connecticut is developing a billion dollar industry, so why should Guilford say no while other cities and towns say yes and benefit from it?”
The Guilford moratorium was approved unanimously until June 30, 2022, unless prior consensus is reached or the moratorium is changed or lifted. Discussions on this topic could start in the coming weeks.
Hoey wrote Thursday that he supports the temporary moratorium and that the end of it depends on the results of the community engagement that influences their individual decisions and the ultimate vote of the Committee of the Elect.
Similar action was taken at Madison, except that it was carried out by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The moratorium specifically relates to the “acceptance, review and / or approval of applications for the use of land and / or structures for a cannabis facility and other recreational marijuana-related uses”.
Madison’s moratorium is in place for nine months or until the commission issues the zoning ordinance. It was approved unanimously on October 21st.
First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The North Branford Planning and Zoning Commission took similar action and extended their moratorium for one year to October 21, 2022.
The Commission did this by changing the zoning regulations, in particular Section 23.2.7. Added language related to the Commission not accepting permit applications for cannabis companies, medical marijuana manufacturers, pharmacies and / or retailers or distributors. Previously, the language only applied to medical marijuana manufacturers, pharmacies, and retailers or distributors.
The commission also discussed the possibility of North Branford holding a referendum to decide whether recreational marijuana sales should be allowed in the city, something Chairman Harry Dulak said should only be brought to the city council after something has been put together or a public comment has been made.
Commissioner Tricia Mase said in a recording of the meeting that the moratorium gives the commission time to digest the law and work out its own regulation.
“I am in favor of moving it forward so we have more time to analyze and find out what we want to do with cannabis sales and cannabis production in North Branford,” member Robert Nowak said in a recording.
Other members agreed, adding that there was time to assess state and community views and the potential impact on North Branford’s economic development.