Local planning and zoning officials gathered Thursday at the Legislative Office Building to get a better understanding of the state’s new medical marijuana regulations and how they may impact local zoning decisions.
The regulations adopted by the state will allow for three indoor production facilities where the marijuana will be grown, and three to five dispensaries where patients will pick up the product. Companies looking to apply for the licenses have been looking for cities and towns willing to let them move in, since they need to tell state officials where they will be located.
Some of the cities and towns have been approached by companies seeking to set up dispensaries or production facilities and many cities are towns will have to decide exactly how they want to apply the zoning regulations to these unique, one-product operations.
There’s no official list, but some towns already have decided to implement a moratorium on marijuana-related businesses. Ansonia and Shelton, for instance, have imposed one-year moratoriums on marijuana growing and dispensing facilities.
Windham also has been approached by a dispensing operation, but officials there are unsure how to proceed.
Matthew Vertefeuille, director of code enforcement for the town of Windham, said he would like to meet with other town officials to find out which way the political winds are blowing on the issue. He said a dispensary like a pharmacy is a retail business, but it’s unique because it only sells one product to a defined clientele. He said his local zoning board can decide if they want to treat a dispensary like a pharmacy, but it will be up to them to decide.
He said the dispensary is looking for him to sign off on its application to the state and he’s at a loss for how to handle the situation because his local zoning regulations are “silent” on the topic.
“I don’t know if it would be advantageous to say yes to it or not,” Vertefeuille said.
Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein, whose department will grant the licenses and regulate the industry, said the state isn’t going to dictate how these facilities are sited in municipalities. He said the local zoning requirements can be more stringent than the regulations adopted by the state.
One local official wanted information on the size of the dispensaries being planned.
Rubenstein said he didn’t have a good answer since the applications for the licenses aren’t due until Nov. 15. He said that the dispensaries are allowed to sell other goods and services, but that the marijuana must be distributed by a pharmacist in a designated location in the building.
He said the licensing of these facilities will be on an annual basis and the oversight by his department will be more stringent than it is for pharmacies and gun shops.
As part of the application process, companies will be asked to disclose how many schools, churches and other community buildings are within 1,000 feet of the facility. The state is looking to make sure they’re located and designed in a manner that will not “negatively impact their local community,” Rubenstein said.
Advertising also will be closely monitored to make sure it doesn’t encourage recreational use of the drug. The signs on the outside of a dispensary will not be allowed to display a graphic of a marijuana plant or any of the paraphernalia associated with its use.
All employees and investors will need to go through the department’s background check and only registered patients and caregivers will be allowed to enter a dispensary facility. The state also is requiring the marijuana to be stored in a vault. It will be sold in child-resistant packaging.
A production facility must have strict security measures in place including alarms, motion detectors, cameras at all entry and exit points in rooms containing marijuana, and a backup power system.
The number of licenses the state will ultimately give out to companies looking to grow marijuana could be as many as 10, but at the moment it’s sticking to three. That number is based on the 980 certified patients registered with the state to purchase marijuana. The license for the grow operation also will be transferable from one financial backer to another, but will need to be renewed annually since the program will be “self-sustaining.”
The state adopted its regulations, which allow the application process for companies to move forward, on Aug. 27. Rubenstein said the first medical marijuana may be available for sale in the state as early as next spring.