CHESHIRE — The Town Council will collaborate with the Planning and Zoning Commission on the regulation and sale of cannabis and cannabis products in town, officials announced recently.
The council and PZC have not yet announced a date for their joint meeting.
At the Sept. 14 council meeting, Town Attorney Jeffrey Donofrio went over details of the new law legalizing cannabis and how surrounding towns have responded to it.
“I have been tracking what other municipalities have been doing on a weekly basis and around eight of them have, through their (PZCs), adopted a moratorium to allow them time to continue to study the legislation to wait and see what regulations are promulgated by the Department of Consumer Protection,” Donofrio said.
Donofrio added that some towns, such as Wallingford, enacted one or more of the prohibitions that are allowed within the legislation. Other towns have chosen a middle ground, choosing to conduct a “comprehensive review” of the legislation and meet with human services, emergency services, and additional town agencies regarding how to address the legislation, without having to enact a moratorium or take any affirmative action.
Marijuana dispensaries will not be allowed in Wallingford following a unanimous vote by the Planning and Zoning Commission last week. Earlier this month, Southington officials also voted to prohibit recreational marijuana sales. Meriden has adopted a moratorium while it awaits more information from the state.
Councilor Tim Slocum asked Donofrio to clarify the circumstances where a referendum would be required, and if the legislation could potentially be circumvented through a referendum.
“Say that the Town chooses to positively support the legislation and allow the sales and tax and all that, could a referendum be triggered that would reverse that?” he asked.
“That is a very good question,” Donofrio answered. “And the answer is as clear as mud. I was on a call with staff that was involved in the Governor’s office, including legal staff, in drafting this bill and that was a question that was asked. The response was ‘No, we don’t think the referendum would override anything,’ but there’s no reconciliation of that potential conflict in this bill.”
Donofrio expressed his opinion that a referendum would not supersede an ordinance, but the law is very unclear on this particular issue.
Councilor Peter Talbot questioned whether the PZC or Town Council could override the need for referendum, to which Donofrio again stated that the answer is, at this time, unclear.
“I think that this is going to be a situation that is going to play out a lot in Connecticut,” Donofrio answered. “But the PZC has statutory authority, and authority under its regulations, to amend its regulations. The Town Council, as the legislative body of the town, has legal authority to pass ordinances … so this needs to get resolved.”
PZC Chair Earl Kurtz III approached the podium to provide his support for collaboration with the Town Council regarding this issue.