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Thursday, May 18, 2017

P&Z Hears its Own Text Amendment for Medical Marijuana Dispensary

By James Lomuscio

A Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) initiated text amendment to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in commercial districts was aired tonight and closed with a vote expected at a future meeting.

Commissioner Chip Stephens, who presented amendment 735, stressed repeatedly that the proposal was for medical, not recreational, marijuana and for people in serious pain for maladies ranging from glaucoma to cancer, as an alternative to opioids.

“I’m glad we’ve approached it in a civil way,” said Stephens, who bemoaned the fact that with all of the meetings on the matter so far, there has been little public input.

P&Z Chairwoman Catherine Walsh agreed, quipping, “We heard you, but we didn’t hear you.”

Most of the input the P&Z did get tonight was from owners of medical marijuana dispensaries in Branford and Bethel. There are nine such facilities in the state.

Angela D’Amico, co-owner of D&B Wellness in Bethel, and Nicholas Tamborrino, owner of Bluepoint Wellness in Branford, each underscored the medical necessity of their dispensaries, professionalism of the licensed pharmacists and security measures.

D’Amico also stated that her facility now accepts debit cards for cannabis pharmaceuticals. Initially such purchases had been limited to cash-only transactions due to federal restrictions.

Among those who spoke in favor of a dispensary in town was local land use consultant Gloria Gouveia. She said a family member relies on it due to an illness “and shouldn’t have to go elsewhere.”

P&Z member Danielle Dobin said she had concerns about dispensaries that might pop up in town “like nail salons” if such a measure were approved.

“I would limit it to one,” said Stephens, saying he did not foresee any legal problems with such a restriction.

Planning and Zoning Department Director Mary Young said the P&Z could limit it to one facility “to see if there are any adverse reactions.”

The topic has been on the P&Z’s agenda since 2013, and the commission has since extended a moratorium on making such a decision. Young said tonight that it was time for the town “to come out of the moratorium.”

Text amendment 735 carries the provision that such a dispensary be located 1,000 feet away from protected areas, including schools, day care centers, parks, public buildings and houses of worship.

All medical marijuana dispensaries are regulated by the state’s Department of Consumer Protection and regulations stipulate that only active, licensed pharmacists may apply for a dispensary license

The state also requires such facilities have security systems, that they restrict advertising and that they monitor operations and production facilities.

Stephens said a dispensary would be limited to a commercial zone, most likely in a strip mall on the Post Road, and that its shop would be discreet without outdoor advertising.

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Posted 05/18/17 at 11:25 PM  Permalink



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