EDITORIAL: Pot dispensary spurs debate in Southington

EDITORIAL: Pot dispensary spurs debate in Southington

Praveen Dhulipalla is seeking to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Southington, and as one may suspect, not everyone likes the idea.

A local anti-drug group is among those opposed to the plan to bring a dispensary to 995 Queen St.

“It’s not about the location. It’s about having it in the community,” said Chris Palmieri, president of STEPS, Southington Town-wide Effort to Promote Success. “It’s about having this type of business in our town.”

Palmieri made this comment March 6 during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting where dozens of residents spoke — both in favor of and against — the proposal.

“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.

Connecticut decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2011, and legalized its medical use the following year.

Now, there are nine medical marijuana dispensaries in the state — two in Milford and one each in Bristol, Hartford, Branford, Waterbury, Bethel, South Windsor and Uncasville.

These dispensaries serve some 22,000 card-holding patients, and that number is growing quickly. For that reason, the state Department of Consumer Protection is encouraging the opening of at least three more medical marijuana facilities and is accepting applications.

Samuel Hendrickson was among the residents to voice support for bringing a dispensary to town at the recent Southington Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. He said those in pain who qualify for medical marijuana should have easy access to the drug.

As of yet, no action has been taken by the Southington P&Z.

While there are convincing arguments on both sides of the marijuana debate, there’s no denying that public opinion in the U.S. has swung dramatically in the pro-marijuana direction.

Nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use (for adults age 21 and up), and in another 29 states, medical marijuana is legal.

Meanwhile, a recent Gallup poll found that 64 percent of Americans thought marijuana should be legal.

Compare that finding to a Gallup poll from 1969, which saw the number at just 12 percent.

As we have seen in Southington, however, many people are uneasy with marijuana becoming mainstream.

At last week’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Praveen Dhulipalla’s attorney, April Arrasate, attempted to assuage the concerns some residents have regarding the dispensary. 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.

Also, Arrasate stated, “We’re not here to debate whether or not Connecticut should have passed this law. We’re just here to discuss this particular location for the Connecticut program.”

In other words, the battle is over; why continue to fight?

When it comes to marijuana for medical reasons, she makes a compelling point.


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