Stonington — The Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday agreed to seek to adopt a 6-month moratorium on accepting applications from anyone who wants to operate a cannabis business in town.
The moratorium will give Town Planner Keith Brynes an opportunity to draft a proposed regulation and to research rules in communities with characteristics similar to Stonington’s, such as those in coastal Massachusetts. Some communities in Connecticut already have adopted moratoriums to give them time to draft regulations.
But because it will take until early March for the commission to hold a public hearing and adopt a moratorium, if someone files an application to open a cannabis business in town before then, the commission would have to accept the application and treat a marijuana retailer or production facility like a similar business in town, such as a liquor store or retail sales.
Brynes said that while there has been interest, he is not aware of anyone ready to file an application.
According to the state law that legalized the recreational use of marijuana and took effect July 1, municipalities had the discretion to allow or prohibit cannabis businesses within their borders, as well as regulate signs and operating hours of such businesses. In October, Stonington residents voted 2,106 to 1,816 to allow cannabis businesses in town.
The law allows one retailer and one retail grower for every 25,000 residents, which means the town and Stonington Borough each can have one grower and one retailer. Towns also can implement a 3% tax on marijuana sales.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Brynes offered the commission several potential options to consider on how to regulate marijuana businesses. He told the commission that a marijuana retailer would have greater community impact than a grower or producer.
The first option would allow by special permit a marijuana store in all commercial zones where liquor and retail sales are allowed.
The second option, which met with some initial support from commission members, would allow a marijuana store to open by special permit in the tourist commercial zone around the Exit 90 highway interchange in Mystic and in the highway industrial zone on Route 2 near Exit 92 in Pawcatuck. These two locations would offer easy access of Interstate 95, especially for residents of neighboring Rhode Island, where recreational marijuana has not been legalized.
A third option would allow retail marijuana sales in industrial zones, which are scattered across town with some bordering residential areas.