Last year, Connecticut became one of 19 states to announce the legalization of cannabis. Since then, however, communities have been deciding exactly how they will tackle the new reality of what will soon be made available to consumers across the state.
Back in January, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a one-year moratorium on cannabis-related commercial activities in town. This was done in response to the likelihood that businesses might seek to cultivate plants or sell cannabis products in the town of Cheshire. With that moratorium set to expire in February of 2023, the Commission took up the matter once again at its Oct. 12 meeting, but did not come to any further conclusions and suggested that more time, beyond its year-long moratorium, may be required.
Commission Chair Earl Kurtz III suggested discussing the regulations at a Planning, Conservation and Development sub-committee meeting, rather than the open forum.
“We’re not trying to hide anything,” Kurtz explained. “It’s just a lot easier and I think we get more accomplished when we’re not up here (in Council Chambers).” That meeting, Kurtz added, would still be accessible to the public.
Commissioner Robert Brucato questioned whether a public hearing would be necessary, to which Town Planner Michael Glidden replied, “Eventually, yes.”
The reason for that, in Glidden’s telling, is that the moratorium is technically a text amendment with the same legal status as any other regulation. “We’d have to do two text amendments,” explained Glidden. “(One) to add or put whatever restrictions we might want on these licenses … (and another for) sunsetting the moratorium.”
“We have to move it out of the regulations,” he added.
The state has issued guidance to local governments, but with different licenses available for retailers, micro-cultivators, delivery services, hybrid retailers, food and beverage providers, packagers, manufacturers, and transporters to consider, the topic is a complicated one. Compounding that, Hartford has mandated a number of licenses specifically reserved for entities qualifying under the banner of “social equity,” a definition that is being challenged in state court.
Glidden mentioned that the state has removed a cap that would have limited cannabis retailers in a given town to one per 25,000 residents. Although in theory the change might mean multiple shops opening in a small town, a state-run lottery process limits the amount of available licenses statewide.
Glidden has drafted regulations for the Commission’s consideration that would address all the different types of licenses. He suggested that “if we’re going to do it, let’s do it once. (The licenses) all have different impacts when it comes to quality of life for neighbors.”
“This is just meant for discussion,” he added, “(and) this frames the discussion and starts it.”
Glidden also advised the Commission that they could extend the moratorium beyond its current expiration date.
“Let’s say we hit some roadblocks and we can’t agree on how to proceed, (then) we can extend it another six months,” he recommended.
The Commission also suggested that it will look at what neighboring communities are doing about commercial cannabis, besides waiting on clarity from the state or courts. Meriden, for one, will allow up to three retail establishments. Wallingford, Prospect and Southington, by contrast, have banned retail cannabis outright, at least for the time being.