Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Local News

Old Saybrook Limits Cannabis Retail Options

Old Saybrook’s Zoning Commission (ZC) voted on May 2 to approve new regulations that limits retail cannabis shops in town.

The new regulations effectively ban retail marijuana stores everywhere except for the B-4 district and the new regulations also restrict it to businesses that received approval from the town before January 2022. Only two businesses received such approval and they have yet to win a permit from the state.

Last year, Connecticut legislators passed a bill that legalized recreational marijuana use by adults in the state. The bill left it up to local municipalities to control its sale in each town. Due to restrictions from the state, Old Saybrook would be limited to only one retail establishment until 2024 because of its population. If a retail cannabis shop is allowed in town, Old Saybrook would receive a three percent tax from all sales.

In Old Saybrook, the ZC opted to enact a moratorium in October 2021 that expires at the end of May. Town Planner and Zoning Enforcement Officer Chris Costa explained to the Harbor News at the time that having a moratorium in place would prevent any applicants from applying to change the zoning or apply to open a retail cannabis store while the commission took time to further study the issue. With the moratorium set to expire, last month the commission proposed new regulations and a public hearing was held May 2.

The only person to speak at the public hearing was Mark Hand, who was in favor of passing less stringent regulations than the ones proposed by the town.

Hand stated that since the state had made the product legal for adults in Connecticut, the town should avoid overbearing regulations.

“Perhaps based on the decades of the failed war on drugs and the propaganda machine that sought to paint cannabis as a gateway drug, some members of the public are still promoting the reefer madness idea that cannabis is like LSD. The fact of the matter is that cannabis is a highly regulated and legal product now in Connecticut,” Hand said.

Hand also shared his views on the allegations that dispensaries are unsafe or unwelcoming places.

“If you took time to visit a medical dispensary in Connecticut or a retail adult use dispensary elsewhere, you’d notice the stores are clean, safe, secure, and look more like a jewelry store than a liquor store. No one under 21 allowed, no criminal element, no crazy parties, no clouds of smoke emanating from the parking lot. Cameras everywhere,” said Hand.

Hand concluded his statement by arguing that since Old Saybrook is “very encouraging of business activity,” it would be wrong to place such strict limits on the cannabis business.

In 2018, the ZC approved applications for two medical marijuana dispensaries in the B-4 zone. One of the applicants, Pauleeok, LLC, received administrative approval in 2021 to allow it to convert from a medical marijuana dispensary to retail marijuana sales for adult use.

Costa explained at the time that because the commission had approved the 2018 application as a retail use and because the applicants were going from one retail use to another retail use, she was bound to approve it as the town had no regulations at that time on the books outlawing retail marijuana retail applications.

Costa said that the ZC’s legal counsel agreed with that opinion. Costa also said that there’s a chance that the stores might never come to fruition in Old Saybrook. The applicants would still need to get licensing approval from the state, which is a long process.


Eric O’Connell covers news for Clinton for Zip06. Email Eric at e.oconnell@shorepublishing.com.

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