Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members are slated to continue a public hearing on June 5 on a proposal to create new zoning regulations that would allow the agency to place a “moratorium” on certain land use applications.
Also, P&Z members are proposing applying such a one-year moratorium on the local growing and/or dispensing of “medical marijuana.”
In 2013, the state legislature approved the use of medical marijuana by prescription for patients who qualify under a strict set of legal/pharmacological rules.
In this area, Bethel land use officials recently approved allowing a firm known as D&B Wellness Inc to operate a medical marijuana dispensary on Garella Road there. That facility would be the only such dispensary in Fairfield County.
The Bethel approval allowed the firm to then obtain a state license for the dispensary. However, the Bethel approval for a dispensary is now being challenged through an appeal to that town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
On May 15, Newtown P&Z members began a public hearing on the moratorium proposal and the medical marijuana rule proposals, but then continued that hearing to June 5 to give P&Z members sufficient time to review the various proposed regulations. The public will be able to comment on the topic at the June 5 session.
The regulatory proposal is considered a “self-application” through which the P&Z, in effect, applies to itself to create new regulations.
Broadly, a moratorium is “an authorized period of delay or waiting.”
In the context of the proposed zoning regulations, the purpose of a “moratorium” would be to suspend the filing of applications or construction in the town for a limited time, in order to allow the P&Z to evaluate the needs of the community, to evaluate future land use and growth, and to pass suitable regulations to implement solutions to specific concerns.
The P&Z is proposing the new regulation on moratoriums, in effect, to allow it to evaluate the state regulations on medical marijuana and also consider the adoption of local zoning regulations on medical marijuana production and distribution, with the intent of maintaining public health and safety, convenience and property values.
Until the current regulatory proposal surfaced, the P&Z has not had any formal mechanism to allow it to enact a “moratorium” on any specific land uses.
According to the P&Z’s proposed regulations, medical marijuana should be well regulated on the local level, in view of the state’s thorough regulations on the matter.
The proposed moratorium on applications for medical marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries would run for one year.
As part of its regulatory proposal, the P&Z provides some definitions of the terms used in the proposed regulations.
“Medical marijuana production facility” means a secure, indoor facility where the production of marijuana occurs, and that is operated by a person to whom the state Department of Consumer Protection has issued a producer license in accordance with Section 21a-408-20 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.
“Medical marijuana dispensary facility” means a place of business where marijuana may be dispensed or sold at retail to qualifying patients and primary caregivers, and for which the state Department of Consumer Protection has issued a dispensary facility permit to an applicant in accordance with Section 21a-408-14 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.
At the May 15 session, P&Z members opened the public hearing on the proposed regulations. There was no public comment. There were only two reporters in the audience.
P&Z members said they want time to familiarize themselves with the specifics of the proposed rules, agreeing that the public hearing would resume at their June 5 P&Z meeting.
P&Z Chairman Robert Mulholland told P&Z members that the state’s regulations concerning medical marijuana are “very restrictive,” strictly limiting how the substance is handled.
Of Bethel’s approval for a dispensary, George Benson, town director and planning and land use, said that state officials wanted there to be a dispensary located somewhere in Fairfield County.
Mr Benson said he expects that the P&Z‘s current zoning regulations would prohibit medical marijuana growing/distribution, but as “an extra layer of protection” a moratorium on the matter could be put in force by the P&Z.
“Newtown needs time to review it,” he said of the medical marijuana issue. Such a moratorium would give the P&Z time to consider the long-term implications of the matter, he said.
“It’s (medical marijuana) regulated very tightly by the state,” he said. Mr Benson, added, however, that town land use officials need time to review applicable state law.
Mr Mulholland told P&Z members that a patient receiving medical marijuana would need to have a pharmacy prescription written by a medical doctor practicing in Connecticut.
Mr Benson recommended that the P&Z enact a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana, but added that such a moratorium could be rescinded before one year passes. “We probably won’t need a year,” he said.
“One year is a reasonable moratorium length,” he said, adding that such moratoriums require specific reasons for their enactment.
Such a moratorium would give P&Z members an opportunity for “regulatory evaluation” on the medical marijuana issue, he said.