SOUTHINGTON — Dozens of residents spoke for and against a proposed medical marijuana dispensary during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday.
Praveen Dhulipalla is requesting a special permit for a dispensary at 995 Queen St. He owns pharmacies across the state, including locations in Hartford, Avon, Southbury and Waterbury. No action was taken by press time Tuesday.
Dhulipalla was accompanied by his attorney, April Arrasate, at Tuesday’s meeting. She outlined the state regulations on medical marijuana facilities, including one that prohibits anyone without a medical marijuana card from entering the building. She said a dispensary would resemble a doctor’s office.
“There won’t be a big giant neon marijuana leaf,” Arrasate said.
She said Tuesday’s discussion was about the placement of a dispensary, not about the law allowing medical marijuana.
“We’re not here to debate whether or not Connecticut should have passed this law,” Arrasate said. “We’re just here to discuss this particular location for the Connecticut program.”
Chris Palmieri, president of STEPS, the Southington Town-wide Effort to Promote Success, said he was opposed to the dispensary anywhere in Southington.
“It’s not about the location. It’s about having it in the community,” said Palmieri, the Town Council chairman and an assistant principal at DePaolo Middle School. “It’s about having this type of business in our town.”
Surveys conducted by STEPS show that local youth believe marijuana less dangerous than before the state legislature decriminalized it in 2012.
“Marijuana is perceived to be less risky than cigarettes by Southington youth,” Palmieri said.
A dispensary would further that belief, he said, and shouldn’t be allowed in town.
Melissa Murphy, a College Avenue resident who lives near the proposed location, said approval would be a “terrible thing to happen to our neighborhood.”
“We don’t need this in our neighborhood. We don’t need this near our kids,” Murphy said. “It’s going to send a bad message to our youth.”
Several residents spoke in favor of the facility, saying marijuana is the least harmful drug to manage pain.
Samuel Hendrickson said those in pain who qualify for medical marijuana should have easy access.
“Not allowing access is not improving drug abuse prevention in Southington,” he said.