CT: Southington Committee To Study Marijuana Dispensary Regulations

Photo Credit: Record-Journal

Town leaders will consider what changes, if any, to make to local zoning regulations concerning marijuana dispensaries.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has reviewed two proposed medical marijuana dispensaries in recent months. The commission approved one for Knotter Drive, which still needs approval from the state Department of Consumer Protection, but denied one on Queen Street.

Hearings for both were packed with residents and town leaders in support and opposition.

PZC Chairman Michael DelSanto, a Republican, said Southington was among the first in the state to develop regulations after the state legalized medical marijuana. Those regulations were developed six years ago and DelSanto said it’s time to review them, particularly with the possibility of recreational marijuana becoming legal in Connecticut.

“We were on the forefront six years ago,” DelSanto said. “We want to take a look at the regulations.”

Planning commission members Jennifer Clock, Ross Hart and Peter Santago are on the subcommittee that will make a recommendation to the full group. DelSanto said the town’s anti-drug group STEPS will also have a presence on the subcommittee.

STEPS members, including the group’s president Chris Palmieri, who is also Town Council chairman, opposed medical marijuana facilities in town.

The subcommittee hasn’t yet met. Hart, a Democrat, said they’ll talk to stakeholders and review regulations from other towns.

Santago, a Republican, said he has an open mind.

“We’re planning and zoning. We’re not the moral police of town,” Santago said.

The conflict between federal law, which prohibits marijuana possession of all kinds, and state law, which allows it for medical uses, may also affect the subcommittee’s recommendation.

“We may need to bring in legal advice when it comes to that,” Santago said. “There’s a lot of things to consider.”

DelSanto expects the subcommittee will have a recommendation later this year, possibly in the fall.

The town’s two medical marijuana zoning applications came after the Department of Consumer Protection announced it would be awarding more permits. The department announced it plans to approve between three and 10 new facilities to accommodate demand, prompting 73 applications earlier this year. Local approval was a requirement of the state’s process.

DCP spokeswoman Lora Rae Anderson said awards might be granted this fall.