BY ANDREAS YILMA
NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are in the process of developing cannabis regulations.
The Land Use Department is looking to amend the Naugatuck Land Use Regulations to create Section 44A, Cannabis Regulations. The Board of Mayor and Burgesses are also exploring developing a cannabis ordinance. The Zoning Commission opened and continued a hearing on cannabis regulations at its Dec. 14 meeting.
Zoning Commission members were given proposed draft cannabis regulations to review. Commission member Eileen M. Bronko rewrote and added to the draft regulations after going through other zoning regulations to make it a fuller and better set of regulations, she said.
Recreational marijuana became legal in the state in July 2021. Retail sale of recreational cannabis in Connecticut started Jan. 10.
Borough attorney Ned Fitzpatrick said a subcommittee of the Board of Mayor and Burgesses is reviewing a proposed ordinance and will ultimately decide whether cannabis will be allowed in the municipality.
“Some of the communities that have approved cannabis for locations, some of the communities have some well worded and very thorough regulations in their ordinances as to where it can be, the prohibitions for use in which really pretty much mirror the alcohol regulations but there’s other aspects to it,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s what the ordinance addresses. It’ll address where and what public, what grounds may it not be used on, parks, schools, very similar to our alcohol ordinance.”
Fitzpatrick said the borough board most likely will address issues of the use and the possession in public parks, outdoor dining areas and public locations. That board will also have to address the collections of the money associated with cannabis sales.
Zoning Enforcement officer Ed Carter said the commission can’t tell someone that they can’t walk down the street carrying cannabis but instead a borough ordinance can say that.
“We are here for where it can be sold at, where it may be able to cultivated at,” Carter said.
Fitzpatrick said the zoning commission also can restrict hours, regulate signs and restrict proximities to schools and churches.
Unless something is adopted through an ordinance or the commission’s zoning regulations, a cannabis establishment can come into town and apply to be in a location with the next similar use which would be alcohol, Fitzpatrick said
Two borough residents spoke in favor of allowing cannabis establishments in town through regulations.
Patrick Scalisi said recreational cannabis now being legal in the state presents the borough with a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of recreation sales and production.
“We’ve seen that cannabis production and sales can be economic drivers both by a tax revenue and job creation,” Scalisi said.
Hermin Sanchez, who said he works in the cannabis industry, said commission members have to think about why they’re doing this in the first place and that is to bring all the tax revenue into town.
“If we don’t get this tax revenue, somebody else will,” Sanchez said.
“We just want to make sure that whatever we do is for us and it benefits the town equally and at the same time have all the protocols in place where we protect ourselves so that if we have a vendor coming into town or someone not following the rules, we can quickly get rid of them because believe me there’s a lot of people behind them that would want to fill this gap,” Sanchez said.
Fitzpatrick said it would make more sense if the borough board adopted an ordinance before the commission adopts a cannabis regulation.
“We’re still in the baby steps for the whole state. We’ve read at least nine different ordinances, a dozen sets of regulations and they’re some ordinances that are very straight forward planned, there are some very thorough and comprehensive,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think that the borough will probably end up going more comprehensive one which does regulate the number of retail type establishments.”
Zoning Commission Chairman Richard Cool requested commission members to look at the land use department’s original proposed draft regulations and the Bronko’s modified draft regulations to be prepared to talk about at the next meeting. The zoning commission continued the hearing to Jan. 18 at 6:05 p.m.