CT: Medical Marijuana Dispensary Sought In Stamford

Photo Credit: Andy Colwell

Six years after the state legalized medical marijuana, the city may get its first dispensary.

Kind Care LLC is requesting Zoning Board approval for a special exception to operate a dispensary in the Clark’s Hill Shopping Plaza at 806 E. Main St.

The Zoning Board will hold a public hearing on the request at 7 p.m. Monday in the Stamford Government Center’s fourth-floor cafeteria.

The Planning Board voted last week to recommend the Zoning Board approve the dispensary, Land Use Bureau Chief Ralph Blessing said.

Zoning Board members will discuss the Kind Care application after Monday’s hearing, according to their agenda. If the board approves the application, it doesn’t mean there will be a dispensary in the shopping plaza. That’s up to the state Department of Consumer Protection.

“The state is giving out only a few licenses, so Stamford might not end up with any,” Blessing said.

Another company that was seeking a special exception to build a wellness center with a medical marijuana dispensary at 1086 Long Ridge Road withdrew its application, Blessing said. The Zoning Board was also scheduled to hear that application on Monday.

The Zoning Board requests come after the state Department of Consumer Protection said in January that it was seeking applications to open at least three more medical marijuana dispensaries, which would bring the total to at least a dozen. The deadline is April 9.

The state’s medical marijuana program is “incredibly successful” and “growing rapidly,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull said in a statement announcing the new applications. As of the end of last year, there were 22,411 registered medical marijuana patients statewide, the statement said.

The dispensary closest to Stamford is about 30 miles away in Bethel. The others are in Milford, which has two, Branford, Waterbury, Hartford, South Windsor, Montville and Bristol.

Department of Consumer Protection officials have said they will consider geographic diversity when reviewing applications for new dispensaries.

The first one opened in South Windsor in 2015, three years after the Connecticut General Assembly legalized medical marijuana.

Crime concerns

In 2014, a company called Constitution Care did not receive a license after having plans to open a dispensary at 46-50 Magee Ave. in Stamford’s Shippan neighborhood.

Constitution Care, however, did obtain approval from the city’s zoning enforcement officer, who determined that a medical marijuana dispensary conformed with zoning regulations for Magee Avenue.

Because Stamford had no regulations governing dispensaries, the enforcement officer consulted with the city attorney, who concluded they are permitted in zones that allow drug stores or pharmacies.

Shippan residents complained, saying that since the dispensary would be the only one of its kind in the area, it likely would draw a lot of traffic to already congested Magee Avenue.

They were also concerned about crime, and police officials agreed. Capt. Richard Conklin said at the time that dispensaries were burglarized and patients were robbed in other parts of the country.

Conklin said he was concerned that if the dispensary charged less for marijuana than the price on the street, some people registered to obtain it might sell it for profit, particularly if the quality was better.

Conklin said he also worried there was “a lot of room for criminality” among those operating dispensaries.

His other concern was that people registered to possess marijuana in Connecticut might run into trouble in states that do not allow it.

For those reasons, Stamford zoning officials — like those in other municipalities around the state — imposed a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in 2014 to give them time to determine zoning requirements.

The following year, the Zoning Board approved medical marijuana dispensaries for commercial and industrial zones, which means they are allowed in most neighborhoods, including the East Side, West Side, Glenbrook, Springdale and Turn of River. The board banned marijuana growing facilities.

According to Stamford zoning regulations, no dispensary may be within a 3,000-foot radius of another; the sign may be no larger than 16 by 18 inches; it may not advertise marijuana brand names or prices; and there cannot be window displays of marijuana or paraphernalia.

Blessing said he has not heard anything about how dispensaries are operating in other towns.

Catherine Blinder, spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer Protection, said local police departments would have the best information about crime around dispensaries, and town planning and zoning boards could best speak to traffic or other possible problems, but her office is not hearing complaints.

“Anecdotally, we get no reports of an increase in crime,” Blinder said. “At Arrow Alternative Care in Hartford, neighbors report fewer break-ins and petty crimes because there is more security.”

The state’s applications for dispensaries require a high level of security, she said.

“They are not package stores — they are medical facilities,” Blinder said. “I can imagine there might be a certain amount of suspicion, but the businesses that surround dispensaries report that they are good neighbors.”

Patients seeking medical marijuana must obtain a doctor’s certification, then they or a caregiver must register with the state to buy an allotted amount of marijuana each month. Patients must renew their registrations yearly.

Patients who are 18 and older may purchase marijuana for 22 medical conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, sickle cell disease, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, Crohn’s disease and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The state approved six medical conditions for patients under 18, including cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, seizure disorder and terminal illness.