WALLINGFORD — The Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday night unanimously approved a nine-month moratorium preventing medical marijuana growers and dispensaries from filing applications with the town.
The moratorium went into effect Monday night. Existing local zoning regulations are compliant with federal law and the Controlled Substances Act, which deems marijuana illegal for any purpose. But the commission held a workshop last month to discuss the ramifications of a state law allowing medical marijuana. State officials expect to award three licenses for marijuana producers and three to five licenses for dispensaries early next year. As a result, Corporation Counsel Janis Small drafted a moratorium at the request of the commission to “give this commission time to determine how it wishes to deal with these uses,” Small said.
A public hearing was held regarding the moratorium. No members of the public spoke.
With the approval, the commission could explore its options, Commission Chairman Jim Seichter said. The commission could look to strictly regulate medical marijuana or adopt more permissive regulations since it’s now allowed under state law.
There is confusion since medical marijuana still isn’t allowed by the federal government, Seichter said. Although U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder notified the governors of Colorado and Washington in August that the Justice Department would not stand in the way of the legalization of recreational marijuana in those states, that stance can change with time, he said.
“At some point, there could be enforcement,” Seichter said, adding that a change of administration could prompt a new tact regarding federal marijuana regulation.
Small mentioned that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided a producer in Colorado last month. Even though Connecticut’s medical marijuana laws are some of the tightest in the country, “it’s still a violation of federal law,” she said. “Someone is finding that out in Colorado right now.”
It’s conflictive that the state would have a law so contrary to federal law, Small said. “It puts communities in a rather strange position.”
Seichter said that he had no problem with state laws allowing medical marijuana. The main issue revolves around the ban from the federal government. The town has yet to even discuss the merits or benefits of having dispensaries, Town Planner Kacie Costello said. “We’re looking at it from a perspective of ‘it’s just not legal under federal law,’” she said.
West Hartford, Shelton, Ansonia, Monroe, Trumbull, Westport and Ridgefield recently adopted similar temporary bans. Some towns have adopted ordinances preventing medical marijuana facilities, Small said. Others, she said, have welcomed such facilities with open arms.