A divided planning and zoning commission has approved regulations that permit medical marijuana dispensaries in town and control where they would go.
That action came when the commission met on Tuesday and the vote was 4-3 in favor of the new regulations. The commission discussed similar regulations in 2013 but took no action and revisited the issue this winter because the state plans to license between three and 10 new dispensaries. There are nine dispensaries in Connecticut now but none in the Farmington Valley.
Town Planner Hiram Peck told the commission that people interested in opening one of the new dispensaries in town have approached him in recent months. But so far, no one has submitted an application to the commission.
Commission members who voted against the regulations said now is not the right time to act, in part because they think issues associated with marijuana are unresolved. Commission member Lisa Levin said she is worried about potential liability for the town since federal law does not allow marijuana for medical purposes. Brian Ladouceur, another commission member, said a concern for him is that a dispensary could be close to residential areas.
Those who voted for the new regulations said something needs to be in place since the state is looking to permit more dispensaries. Commission Chairwoman Linda Keith said having regulations on medical marijuana prepares the town to regulate local sales of marijuana for recreational use, should the state ever approve that.
“It’s better to have a regulation on the record that can be modified later than to have nothing,” Keith said.
The new regulations also allow medical marijuana production facilities but Peck said the state has no plans to license more of them.
With the new regulations, dispensaries would only be allowed in areas zoned for commercial uses and at least 300 feet away from churches or schools. Production facilities would be confined to industrial areas. Peck said the regulations are similar to those other communities have adopted.
“We are not out to reinvent the wheel here,” Peck said.
In Canton, the planning and zoning commission recently approved plans to open a dispensary in a commercial area along Route 44. That plan still needs approval from the state.