By Eric O’Connell/Zip06.com • 09/28/2021 04:56 p.m. EST
The Old Saybrook Zoning Commission (ZC) will hold a hybrid public hearing over a proposed moratorium on marijuana regulations at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 4. If passed, the moratorium will give the commission more time to study the issue.
Earlier this year, Connecticut legislators passed a bill that legalized recreational marijuana use by adults in the state. Now, it’s up to local municipalities to interpret what regulations will be enacted to control its sale in each town.
In Old Saybrook, the ZC has opted to take a moratorium route. Town Planner and Zoning Enforcement Officer Chris Costa explained to the Harbor News that having a moratorium in place would prevent any applicants from applying to change the zoning or apply to open a retail cannabis store while the commission takes time to further study the issue.
The moratorium would have an end date of May 2022. Costa said the commission could take action before the moratorium ends.
Costa said that while the Department of Consumer Protection and the state iron out more details surrounding cannabis sales, the ZC wanted to wait to make a ruling. As more information comes out, the ZC can then decide to revisit the issue during the moratorium.
Any regulations related to the sale of marijuana in Old Saybrook are likely to be controversial. While there is a contingent that will be concerned if not outright opposed to any regulations that would allow for a marijuana retail store to open, there are also people who are in favor of allowing the sale in town.
The town has three choices when it comes to regulations for cannabis. It can outright prohibit retail sales in town, it can approve it with certain stipulations, and it can allow it with no regulations.
Under the bill passed by the legislature, there can only be one marijuana retail location per 25,000 people. This means only one store would be able to open in Old Saybrook.
Over the last several weeks, the ZC has had multiple discussions about marijuana and ZC members have expressed opinions that run the gamut. During the discussions, some members have indicated that they would prefer an outright prohibition on marijuana services. Others said the uses and negative effects of marijuana are not dramatically different than alcohol so why should the ZC prevent another business from opening in town, especially when auxiliary businesses can benefit?
If allowed in town, Old Saybrook would receive a three percent tax from all sales; those funds must be used for a specific set of projects.
ZC Chair Robert Friedmann noted that in the past the ZC had approved two locations for medical marijuana dispensaries, though neither received an approved license to operate. Friedmann said he and Costa had toured grow facilities in the past and spoke of the stringency the security measures and how discrete the businesses are, to the point people wouldn’t even know they were there.
Costa said that in conversations with towns in Massachusetts that opened dispensaries, those towns said that there was initially a big surge in interest right when the dispensaries opened but then the interest leveled off after the novelty waned and other towns opened dispensaries.
However, there are still concerns with allowing cannabis retail. There’s a fear that the business could drain police services, will negatively affect the culture of the town, and will send a poor message to the town’s youth. Citing these reasons, the Town of Clinton recently announced it would seek an ordinance to ban marijuana sale in Clinton.
The ZC will weigh public sentiment at the public hearing then move from there.