Wallingford officials acted with perceptive foresight in authorizing an interim, nine-both ban on medical marijuana dispensaries filing applications with the town.
Members of the Planning and Zoning commission originally proposed this moratorium. The idea is to reconsider municipal ordinances in advance of the inevitable opening of medicinal-cannabis dispensaries and growing operations in Connecticut. Last year, state lawmakers authorized medical marijuana, and now expect to award three licenses for producers, and five for sellers, in the beginning of 2014. One of these businesses already is eying a location in Meriden.
Wallingford zoning regulations are compliant with federal law in deeming marijuana illegal for any purposes. But the code does not mention medicinal pot, because the substance was not as prominent when the laws were first drafted. Therefore, it would be wise to update legal language in light of the expanding medical cannabis market. For instance, town decision-makers understandably may not want these operations in or near school zones. Permissible business hours should be set, as should any additional municipal guidelines that officials believe necessary.
Moreover, as astutely pointed out by Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. in our Dec. 4 news story, Wallingford officials require time to deliberate on the difference between state and federal law regarding cannabis. Nationally, medical marijuana remains illegal. But Connecticut and 19 other states have authorized its use. Elsewhere in the country, this legislative discord has already caused problems. Federal agents have raided businesses and arrested involved parties, a complicated scenario which could prompt a protracted legal mess.
“There are some serious unknowns,” Dickinson aptly reflected on the matter. Nine months is sufficient time to explore how these unknowns could affect Wallingford should a marijuana operation attempt to move in.
Which is entirely possible. Legal pot is a burgeoning business in America. Two states — Colorado and Washington — have already authorized cannabis even for non-medical, recreational consumption. Although Connecticut so far has allowed pot purchase just for patients with severe afflictions, given trends in other states, more liberal retail laws could be but years away.
With a solid pro-business reputation, Wallingford is an appealing place to open up shop. Under current regulations, the town would not be able to turn away a marijuana operation, despite legitimate concerns expressed by numerous municipal officials. Thus, local leaders were right to implement the nine-month moratorium — to better prepare for what could bloom into a tricky situation in the future.