WALLINGFORD — Marijuana dispensaries will not be allowed in town following a unanimous vote by the Planning and Zoning Commission this week.
Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law earlier this year legislation that legalizes and regulates recreational marijuana.
Municipal officials can control the number and locations of cannabis retailers locally — including prohibiting cannabis retail stores — as well as determine where smoked or vaped cannabis can be consumed publicly, according to a June statement from Lamont.
The new law enacts a tax rate structure on the retail sale of cannabis that includes a 3 percent sales tax directed to the municipality where the retail sale occurred, in addition to a state sales tax and a tax based on the THC content of the product.
During Monday’s public hearing, Wallingford Town Planner Kevin Pagini said Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and Health Director Stephen Civitelli proposed amending the town’s zoning regulations to prohibit cannabis establishments.
The zoning regulations currently state that all approved uses in town must be legal at the local, state and federal levels.
Commission Chairman Jim Seichter said that since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, cannabis establishments would not be allowed in town.
Commission member Jeff Kohan said that the federal government hasn’t enforced its laws regarding marijuana at the state level.
“They have allowed states’ rights to deal with this, and they really haven’t enforced what the states enacted,” he said.
At Monday’s meeting, Dickinson spoke in favor of banning all marijuana stores based on public health and safety concerns, saying that marijuana hasn’t been tested enough in a comprehensive, clinical way.
“Plenty of anecdotal and other evidence, studies from European countries about harm, but this country has not tested (marijuana),” he said. “We have a duty to protect the public health, regardless of whom might make money, or how many people it might employ.”
He also made sure the language voted on included both recreational and medicinal cannabis establishments by making a point of order after the public hearing had closed to update the language in the proposed zoning text amendment.
Ken Welch, Coalition for a Better Wallingford president, said that his organization is receiving as many calls about marijuana addiction as it is about opioids.
“This is an unbelievable Pandora’s box and we're dealing with it right now every day,” he said. “In any state where this has been legalized, less than half of the towns have agreed to it.”
Sean Doherty, Wallingford Family YMCA executive director and co-chair of the Wallingford Community Health Alliance, said that allowing marijuana stores would increase access to youth while decreasing the perception of harm.
Area cannabis reaction
Officials in nearby municipalities have been working to adapt to the new state law.
The Meriden City Council has enacted a moratorium on cannabis operations that runs to Nov. 19. The City Council more recently approved an amendment to zoning regulations that allows no more than three retail cannabis dispensaries in the city.
Last week, Southington officials voted to prohibit local recreational marijuana sales and commercial cultivation. An effort to hold a referendum on sales this November failed when organizers couldn't get the necessary signatures.