By Kate Ramunni
HAMDEN – The town will be an option for anyone looking to establish a medical marijuana dispensary and production facility – that is, if the state once again accepts applications for the businesses, and if they’re proposed for one of three town roads.
The Planning and Zoning Commission last week approved a new amendment to its regulations that regulates the businesses, one that grows marijuana and the other that sells it.
There’s now four producers and nine dispensaries operating in Connecticut, Town Planner Dan Kops told the commission. The closest are in Branford and Milford, which serve 4,202 people in New Haven County approved to fill prescriptions for medical marijuana.
The state is not accepting applications for additional producers or dispensaries, but that could change at any time, Kops said. If and when that happens, the town wants to be ready to deal with any applications, he said.
The state Department of Consumer Protection has 68 pages of regulations governing such establishments, Kops said. “The comprehensive regulations govern everything from licensing procedures, requirements for physicians to meet to be eligible to prescribe medical marijuana, registration of patients and primary caregivers, security measures, storage and handling of the substance to the size of the dispensary sign,” he said in his report to the commission.
When formulating the town’s regulations, his department looked to other communities that already have them in place, Kops said. “The general advice given by planners in other communities is to keep [the regulations] simple, given the highly restrictive state regulations,” he said.
The regulations the commission approved treat dispensaries like pharmacies, but place on them additional regulations that require them to be located at least 1,000 feet from a school or church. The commission questioned the wisdom of that number, suggesting it should be more in the are of 200 feet, but approved them as is with the option of amending that later.
A production site or dispensary can only be located in a T4 or T5 zone, which limits them to Dixwell Avenue, Whitney Avenue or State Street, and can be no larger than 20,000 square feet. Site plan approval is required if the application is for a site with an existing building.
Because the state regulations address the issue of signage, the town regulations don’t, Kops said. “No community wants marijuana productions facilities and dispensaries to attract anyone other than the patients or caregivers,” he said. “The businesses shouldn’t become attractive nuisances.”
The proposed amendment passed by a vote of 5-1-1. Commissioner Joel Mastroianni voted against the amendment and Commissioner Michele Mastropetre abstained. The amendment goes into effect on Aug. 17.
Residents shopping at the Hamden Plaza Tuesday had mixed reactions to the news.
“I don’t think it’s something we need,” said James Peck, who said he has lived in Hamden for more than 50 years. “I think there’s too much abuse associated with it. I say keep it out of Hamden.”
But Tina Colon, 36, said she thinks the town shouldn’t turn away any potential business. “They will pay taxes, right? Then I welcome them with open arms,” she said. “They need to do something to keep the taxes down, and it’s not a good idea to say no to any legitimate business.”