Cannabis buds
Cannabis buds. Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

A lawyer for the city of Stamford has asked a Superior Court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a local neighborhood coalition seeking to invalidate Connecticut’s recently enacted cannabis legalization law.

The complaint, filed last month by the Stamford Neighborhoods Coalition, asked the court for an injunction to prohibit the operation of cannabis businesses within the city and in Connecticut as a whole based in part on an argument that the 2021 legalization law was preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act.

In court documents filed Thursday, city attorneys described the lawsuit as a “jumble of allegations that mixes causes of action and claims for relief indiscriminately,” and asked the court dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the coalition and 12 additional plaintiffs had not been aggrieved by the city’s establishment of zoning regulations for cannabis businesses. 

“The individually named plaintiffs’ vague and unsubstantiated assertions that the siting of cannabis facilities in Stamford increases criminal activity, will have an adverse effect on their use and enjoyment of their properties, and diminish their property values… do not establish harm that is unique to them,” Cynthia Anger, Stamford assistant corporation counsel, wrote.

Because the plaintiffs had not established that the city’s actions had caused them direct harm, they lacked standing before the court and their lawsuit should be dismissed, the city argued. 

“Unfounded concerns and worries do not result in classical aggrievement and ‘mere generalizations and fears do not prove that an appellant is an aggrieved person,’” Anger wrote, quoting a 1989 case involving a planning and zoning commission.

The lawsuit makes a number of arguments against the 2021 cannabis law and the city’s Zoning and Planning boards, both of which the group contends include members whose terms have expired.

In addition to asserting that the cannabis law was unconstitutional due to the substance’s status as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, the lawsuit argues that allowing cannabis businesses within Stamford’s borders would negatively impact property values and put its residents at risk of criminal activity. 

“Additionally, the availability and use [of cannabis] will necessarily increase criminal activity in their neighborhoods and Stamford generally, with added risks to their safety and the safety of their families,” attorney David Herz wrote in the complaint.

Specifically, the lawsuit pointed to one individual plaintiff, Brooke Nilsen, director of the First United Methodist Nursery School. 

“The First United Methodist Nursery School is within a thousand feet of a recently proposed retail Cannabis facility in the City of Stamford,” Herz wrote. “Siting Cannabis facilities anywhere in Stamford necessarily increases criminal activity in Stamford, putting children at greater risk.”

In the city’s motion to dismiss the complaint, Anger noted that Nilsen, and not the school itself, appeared as a plaintiff of the lawsuit. 

“There are, in fact, no allegations in the Complaint at all setting out how SNC is aggrieved, and as discussed above, there are no allegations in the Complaint demonstrating how the individual plaintiffs are aggrieved,” Anger wrote. “Further, the Complaint is completely silent as to what, if any, affect the Board’s decision has had on any of the plaintiffs. The SNC has failed to allege sufficient facts to demonstrate aggrievement on the part of its members.”

The lawsuit was filed in the Stamford Judicial District court in mid-August. As of Friday, there were no scheduled court dates in the case and it has not been assigned to a specific judge, according to the state’s Judicial Branch website.