New Milford could ban weed on town properties – Danbury News Times

NEW MILFORD — Soon, if you’re caught smoking marijuana on town-owned or town-leased properties in New Milford, you might get slapped with a fine.

During an hourslong Town Council meeting Monday, members unanimously voted to continue creating an ordinance restricting marijuana use on town properties. The council will bring the ordinance to a public hearing before its next meeting on Oct. 12. The public hearing will take place just before the meeting at 6:30 p.m.

The proposed ordinance would allow law enforcement to fine people found smoking or vaping marijuana on or inside town properties. The state already prohibits its usage in state parks and on state beaches and waters.

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass said the goal is to “basically just continue to make it safe for young children that use our town parks, our green, to make sure that it’s safe, that they’re not subject to cannabis smoke.”

At its next meeting, the council likely will take a final vote.

Cannabis was legalized in Connecticut on July 1, meaning adults could possess up to one-and-a-half ounces of cannabis on their person, store up to five ounces in a locked container at home, or transport five ounces in a locked glovebox or trunk, according to the state’s maijuana explainer site.

Marijuana retail is not expected to begin until late next year.

In July, council members discussed Connecticut’s decision to legalize cannabis and its implications for the town. At that meeting, they tried to figure out what the law could mean for New Milford and how they should approach usage regulations.

Bass told the council he was looking for a “regulated experience.”

While the amount of the fine has not been established, it could go as high as $250, the highest one allowed by state statute.

“I think that it’s going to depend upon what happens at the public hearings, what the citizens want,” town attorney Randy DiBella said.

Most of the money collected from the fines would go to the state, but the town would benefit, DiBella said, because fines would be paid through a state ticketing procedure.

Moving into the future

During Monday’s meeting, council members heard from DiBella.

DiBella said the Zoning Commission did not want to enact a moratorium, but thought it would make sense to amend existing regulations to meet the recreational marijuana-use statutes.

“The law is clear, it’s absolutely clear, you can prohibit vaping, smoking and the use of marijuana, actually, on town property,” DiBella told the council. “So, I drafted an ordinance in accordance with the authority of the statute and I’ve given it to the mayor.”

Councilmanr David Lawson asked DiBella if it still counted if a resident was in their private car on town property, to which DiBella said, “Yes.”

When asked for input about enforcement concerns, local Police Chief Spencer Cerruto said that he hadn’t yet read the proposed ordinance.

“In speaking with the chief at least two or three times a week, I have not heard of any major issues at all when it comes to cannabis,” Bass said.

The town has not yet decided on cannabis sale or business regulations, and awaits recommendations from the Zoning Commission.

“One of the things that we wanted to make sure was that the town spoke in unison,” Bass said.

But next year, when the state “really opens up to sales and more opportunities to purchase cannabis, we want to make sure we have our ducks in a row so it doesn’t become an issue,” he added.

Other towns in the area are still determining marijuana regulations, with some postponing decisions so they can get community input and determine a course of action.

Newtown has banned cannabis establishments, while Ridgefield and Danbury have imposed one-year moratoriums. Southbury passed a nine-month moratorium earlier this month, according to meeting minutes.

DiBella said a number of towns are opting for a moratorium while they await possible regulations from the state Department of Consumer Protection.

With every town and city making its own rules, Bass said the start of cannabis sales next year likely would be “very complicated.” This sentiment was echoed by DiBella, who said that of the five towns he represents, three have already approached him with different ways to regulate marijuana within their limits.

With 169 municipalities in the state, “there’s going to be 169 variations,” Bass said, from highly restrictive, to no restrictions at all.

Still, Bass said he appreciated that municipalities have been given the opportunity to take the regulations into their own hands. In that way, New Milford will be able to tailor its regulations to the wants and needs of its residents, he added.

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