Orange residents will have chance to weigh in on recreational cannabis sales – New Haven Register

ORANGE — Residents will have a chance this week to weigh in on how — or whether — cannabis is sold in town.

Residents will have the opportunity Wednesday to weigh-in on three options regarding the sale of cannabis in town: whether to regulate, prohibit or impose a moratorium.

Members of the Town Plan and Zoning Commission in meeting discussions have stressed they want to hear the opinions of residents on which direction to take, as they, along with other communities grapple with decisions brought about by the legalization of recreational marijuana.

There are three options for folks to consider: regulate, prohibit or impose a moratorium.

Three public hearings — one on each option — will be held Wednesday, Nov. 3, beginning at 7 p.m. in the lower level of Town Hall. An agenda is available on the town website.

The Board of Selectmen recently banned smoking marijuana, as well as tobacco, and vaping on town-owned property.

Zoning officials are debating whether to allow retail sale of cannabis in town, which would be regulated by the state through licensing. Under the new laws in Connecticut, the number of licensed retail cannabis stores is determined by the population and, for Orange, that means one retail site. .

Planners have more time than first thought because the state likely won’t issue licenses for retail sales until next year.

When the TPZC at a meeting last month started a conversation on the issue of retail marijuana sales, they admittedly went into it leaning toward a prohibition.

But that quickly evolved and by the end of the meeting they were talking about creating regulations for the retail sale of marijuana — with resident input — that might include signage and rules concerning proximity to certain establishments, such as schools and houses of worship.

Later, the idea of a moratorium was considered, with the idea of revisiting the issue after sales in the state were underway.

Planners also technically have the option of doing nothing, but have ruled that out.

They can also prohibit sales, create regulations for sales or enact a moratorium to buy time.

TPZC Chairman Oscar Parente said at a recent meeting that, through creating regulations they could require a special use permit for marijuana sales, allowing the TPZC to consider factors such as property value and neighborhood impact as they do with other such permits.

Selectman Mitch Goldblatt said in the past, he believes cannabis should be sold in town, with regulations, because the town allows stores that sell other products many find objectionable, including liquor, guns, cigarettes and cigars, and tattoos. Goldblatt noted the sale of cannabis will be “highly regulated” just like the drugs sold in pharmacies.

Goldblatt said at the time that retail sales would benefit the town financially because the state put a 3 percent tax on sales and it will “add up.”

But First Selectman Jim Zeoli took a swipe at that sentiment during a recent Board of Selectmen meeting, saying it would take personnel time to bill the establishments, collect and, if there were difficulty collecting, the town attorney would have to get involved.

“Unless it’s a big number, that 3 percent is kind of pie in the sky,” Zeoli said, or as he put it on a Facebook discussion with residents, “All that glitters is not gold.”

Marino noted after Zeoli’s comments that the tax money doesn’t go into the general fund, as there are restrictions on how it can be spent.

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