The Day – Waterford implements moratorium on cannabis establishments – News from southeastern Connecticut – theday.com


Waterford — Town officials have decided to put off by a year a decision on whether marijuana businesses should be allowed here. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to place a moratorium on the application, installation and creation of any cannabis establishment.

The temporary prohibition will go into effect for up to a year until the commission adopts regulations in support or against such establishments. The start date of the moratorium is expected to be Dec. 31.

Before opening a public hearing, Planning Director Abby Piersall explained that the public hearing would not address actions the town may take on smoking in public places or the potential for a referendum; it also does not change town regulations concerning medical marijuana facilities.

Piersall said the uses subject to the moratorium include producer, dispensary facility, cultivator, micro-cultivator, retailer, hybrid retailer, food and beverage manufacturer, product manufacturer, transporter, product packager and/or delivery service.

Under a July 1 state law that legalized the use of recreational marijuana in Connecticut as well as the sale, growth and production of cannabis products, the decision to prohibit or regulate such businesses are up to the towns and cities. Without any action, one retailer and one producer is allowed for each 25,000 residents as long as they conform with a long list of state regulations.

Municipalities also can bill cannabis businesses up to $50,000 for the extra police and infrastructure required for the businesses to open. Towns also can implement a 3% tax on marijuana sales. State officials have said they expect retail sales to begin at the end of 2022.

Dan Radin, an unaffiliated member of the Representative Town Meeting and chair of the Economic Development Commission, was the only speaker during the public hearing.

“It’s a rare opportunity that legislation enables a new industry in Waterford,” he said.

Radin urged the commission to take immediate action to reap the benefits of this opportunity, such as tax and fee revenue and the jobs it would create, instead of ceding them to neighboring towns.

He quoted an EDC letter of recommendation sent to the planning commission and RTM leaders on Nov. 18. It recommends using existing ordinances and regulations regarding package stores and liquor permitting as “a blueprint for permitting activities on-premises, signage, hours of operation and proximity restrictions with regard to certain protected locations.”

The EDC also suggested Cross Road and Route 85 as possible retail zones.

PZC member Ken Petrini said he was OK with supporting cannabis establishments as long as commission members have all the information to make a decision. He said the EDC recommendation cited the cost benefits but not how such actions would impact public safety and policing.

While the moratorium is in place, no application for a cannabis establishment shall be permitted in any zone. Meanwhile, the commission can draft permanent regulations, hold public hearings and adopt new regulations.

Piersall said the commission could take time during the moratorium to speak with other town departments and analyze what other towns have done.

At the end of the moratorium, the commission can allow it to expire and regulate cannabis establishments like similar businesses, adopt new regulations to control factors such as the location of such establishments in town, or prohibit their establishment.

j.vazquez@theday.com

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