CT: Firm Appealing Marijuana Dispensary Decision

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A firm that sought town zoning approval to potentially allow a medical marijuana dispensary to operate in an industrial building on Commerce Road on March 20 was denied permission for such a use.

In response, the applicant, 18 Commerce Road, LLC, is appealing that decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). The ZBA has scheduled a public hearing on the firm’s claim that the zoning enforcement officer erred in rejecting the proposed use. The hearing is slated for 7:30 pm on Wednesday, April 4, at Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street.

David Bonadio of 18 Commerce Road, LLC, said March 28 that he is appealing the town decision not to allow a dispensary because he is seeking to accommodate a potential tenant of the building who is interested in operating a dispensary there.

The 10,240-square-foot building, which is partially occupied, was built in 1978. It is located in a M-5 (Industrial) zone.

Besides a town endorsement to allow a dispensary, such a facility would require approvals from the state’s medical marijuana program, which is administered and licensed by the state Department of Consumer Protection (DCP).

The DCP has extensive regulations to control the production, handling, and sale of medical marijuana to people who meet the medical requirements to use the substance.

In his March 20 rejection of allowing a dispensary, George Benson, town planning director, stated that town Land Use Agency staff members reviewed the extensive state regulations concerning the “palliative use of marijuana.”

The town’s zoning regulations do not allow medical marijuana dispensaries as permitted uses, according to Mr Benson. Only uses that are specifically listed in the zoning regulations are allowed, he said.

A dispensary is not considered a retail use because such dispensaries are not open to the general public, according to Mr Benson.

Attorney Robert Hall represents 18 Commerce Road, LLC. In his appeal of Mr Benson’s decision, Mr Hall wrote that the front half of 18 Commerce Road, which is vacant, is uniquely suited for use as dispensary due to its location on a dead-end street in an industrial park.

“If the dispensary facility were considered a retail establishment, then there would be no reason to reject the application,” Mr Hall wrote.

“Only registered patients can receive medical marijuana… Just like pharmacies, a medical marijuana dispensary facility is licensed and heavily regulated,” he added. Mr Hall described the elaborate safeguards included in medical marijuana regulations.

In his appeal to the ZBA, Mr Hall writes “A facility dispensing medical marijuana for palliative use is a ‘store or shop for the conduct of retail business’ and should have been approved as a matter of right.”

Mr Hall said March 27 that a dispensary meets the requirements of the town’s zoning regulations. There is no better place in Newtown than 18 Commerce Road for such a dispensary, he said. Such a facility would not include marijuana production, he added.

In June 2014, 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. 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.”

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, a medical marijuana dispensary does business on Garella Road in Bethel.