SOUTHINGTON — The Planning and Zoning Commission has approved a medical marijuana dispensary for a commercial area in the south end of town.
The 6-1 vote Tuesday night followed several public hearings in which opponents and proponents aired their views.
PZC members who supported the special permit for the dispensary said the vote was based on town regulations, not opinions on medical marijuana.
Raj Patel, a partner with About Wellness LLC, of Cromwell, wants to open a dispensary at 30 Knotter Drive. He says he chose the location because it is in an industrial area, away from homes. To open the dispensary, Patel still needs a permit from the state.
PZC Chairman Michael DelSanto said commission members understand drugs are harmful.
“We’ve gotten lots of emails, we’ve gotten lots of communication from these (anti-drug) organizations. We get it, drugs are bad,” he said. “In this position, we have a job to do … We have to follow our regulations.”
Paul Chaplinsky, the commission’s vice chairman, opposed the special permit, saying he wasn’t convinced that the dispensary wouldn’t hurt property values. Other commission members said he was holding the medical marijuana application to a higher standard than other applications, but Chaplinsky said the situation was unique.
“I do believe there is a burden of proof. We don’t have history of these types of applications in town,” he said.
Jennifer Clock, a commission member, said Patel had conformed to the town’s regulations.
“This businessperson went above and beyond, clearly, what I’ve ever seen on this board to meet those regulations,” she said.
The commission voted down a plan by another pharmacist earlier this year for a medical marijuana dispensary on Queen Street, saying it was too close to residential areas.
Patel’s Knotter Drive location is among commercial and industrial buildings.
“If you’re going to put a dispensary anywhere in town, this is the best location to put it,” said commission Robert Hammersley. “There are no residences.”
A site plan for the dispensary passed unanimously following the special permit vote Tuesday.