Connecticut Town wants a time-out on marijuana business

Shelton, CT town officials want moratorium on medical marijuana sales

CONNECTICUT: Before the state has even adopted the regulations concerning the growing and dispensing of medical marijuana, Shelton’s zoning commission wants a time-out to stop and think.

It is proposing a six-month moratorium on implementing the new regulations so commission members will have time to study the nearly 100-page document and fully understand it. A public hearing on the town moratorium is planned for Aug. 13.

“It was felt that it was best to have some time to review the regulations, so that we don’t misstep,”Ruth Parkins, commission chairwoman, said Friday.

The state approved its medical marijuana law last year and the Department of Consumer Protection is now crafting regulations on how that law will be implemented. A vote on the new state regulations is slated for August. But turning the growth and sale of marijuana from an underground industry into a legal one has caused anxiety in many places where medical marijuana has been legalized. In Massachusetts, for instance, voters approved medical marijuana in November. Since then, at least 10 towns have adopted moratoriums to prevent pot dispensaries from opening within their borders.

Shelton’s zoning commission wants time to consider issues that range from zoning for the growing facilities to methods of dealing with a controlled substance.

“Would it be light-industrial, light manufacturing or agricultural?” Parkins wondered. “What would the guidelines be on how that (marijuana) would be handled? What about licensing and security measures?”

Right now, it’s unclear “how far the proposed standards and regulations of the state are” going to go, Tony Panico, the commission’s consultant, said at a recent meeting. The moratorium would give the commission “a minimum of six months from the effective date of the new regulations to understand them,” Panico said. The commission might find “they are very thorough and apply” to Shelton “100 percent,” or, he said, they might find them “too lax” for the city.

“We thought it would be a good approach to give us some time to go over them,” said Tony Pagoda, commission vice chairman, who heads the subcommittee that proposed the moratorium.

Virginia Harger, another commission member, agreed it was the right approach.

“This is so new for all of us on the local and state level,” she said. “It will give us a chance to step back and see what’s actually in it.”

The consumer protection department will certify between three and 10 highly-secured marijuana growing facilities. Under the law, growers would have to pay a $25,000 licensing fee.

The lure of starting a business in the emerging, and potentially lucrative, marijuana industry is strong.

Rob Schulter, a self-described Fairfield entrepreneur, presented a proposal to the Bridgeport Planning & Zoning Commission in November to grow and sell marijuana out of a renovated building on Hastings Street. Schulter had the support of Mayor Bill Finch‘s administration, but his application was shot down by that city’s zoners in 2012 as premature.

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