Saybrook Zoning holds hearing on proposed marijuana moratorium


By Eric O’Connell / • 09/28/2021 4:56 PM EST

The Old Saybrook (ZC) Zoning Commission will hold a hybrid public hearing on a proposed moratorium on marijuana regulation at 7 p.m. on Monday, October 4. If passed, the moratorium will give the commission more time to study the matter.

Earlier this year, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill legalizing the state’s recreational use of marijuana by adults. From now on, it is up to local municipalities to interpret which regulations will be issued to control its sale in each municipality.

In Old Saybrook, the ZC opted for a moratorium route. City planner and zoning enforcer Chris Costa told Harbor News that a moratorium would prevent any applicant from applying to change the zoning or requesting the opening of a retail cannabis store while the commission is taking the time to study the matter further.

The moratorium would end in May 2022. Costa said the commission could take action before the moratorium ends.

Costa said that while the Department of Consumer Protection and the state worked out more details regarding cannabis sales, the ZC wanted to wait to make a decision. As more information becomes available, the ZC may then decide to revisit the matter during the moratorium.

Any regulations relating to the sale of marijuana at Old Saybrook are likely to be controversial. While there is a contingent that will be concerned if not outright opposed to any regulations that would allow a retail marijuana store to open, there are also people who are in favor of allowing the sale in town. .

The city has three choices when it comes to regulating cannabis. It can ban retail in town altogether, it can approve it with certain conditions, and it can allow it without regulation.

Under the bill passed by the legislature, there can only be one outlet for marijuana per 25,000 people. This means that only one store could open in Old Saybrook.

Over the past few weeks, the ZC has had several discussions about marijuana, and ZC members have expressed views that run the gamut. During the discussions, some members indicated that they would prefer an outright ban on marijuana services. Others have said that the uses and negative effects of marijuana are not drastically different from those of alcohol, so why should ZC prevent another business from opening in town, especially when auxiliary companies can benefit from it?

If allowed in town, Old Saybrook would receive a three percent tax on all sales; these funds must be used for a specific set of projects.

ZC President Robert Friedmann noted that in the past, ZC had approved two locations for medical marijuana dispensaries, although neither had received an approved business license. Friedmann said he and Costa have visited grow-out facilities in the past and talked about how tight security measures and corporate discretion are, to the point that people wouldn’t even know they were there.

Costa said that in conversations with towns in Massachusetts that have opened dispensaries, those towns said that there was initially a sharp increase in interest just in opening dispensaries, but that interest then stabilized after novelty waned and other cities opened clinics.

However, there are still concerns about the authorization of the retail sale of cannabis. There are fears that the company will drain police departments, negatively affect the city’s culture and send the wrong message to the city’s youth. Citing these reasons, the City of Clinton recently announced that it will seek an ordinance to ban the sale of marijuana to Clinton.

The ZC will assess the public sentiment at the public hearing and then go from there.

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