Cannabis regulations explored in Naugatuck

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FILE – Marijuana plants for the adult recreational market are are seen in a greenhouse at Hepworth Farms in Milton, N.Y., Friday, July 15, 2022. Missouri voters are set to be the first in the nation to sign off on automatically forgiving past marijuana crimes if they approve a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational pot in November 2022. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — The borough is exploring a way to establish new cannabis regulations.

The Land Use Department distributed draft cannabis regulations to Zoning Commission members at the commission’s Sept. 20 meeting. The drafts were made available for members to review and offer additions or rescission.

Recreational marijuana became legal in the state in July 2021. Retail sale of recreational cannabis in Connecticut is not expected to begin until May 2023.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Ed Carter said land use and the zoning commission will look to possibly set up a hearing in November. The commission also plans to meet with the Board of Mayor and Burgesses to finish the regulations, Carter said.

“We have gotten a couple more calls from potential businesses or business that may want to come to the town to open up,” Carter said.

Town Planner Lori Rotella said the borough has four options on how to move ahead. It can either take no action and use what’s currently in the regulations that are closest for cannabis (which would be the borough’s alcohol regulations); zone to accommodate cannabis; zone to prohibit it; or implement a cannabis moratorium.

Carter said if the borough takes no action, it doesn’t mean a cannabis establishment can’t be approved.

The limitation on the number of micro-cultivators and retailers until June 30, 2024 has been taken away, Rotella said. The state previously had one micro cultivator and retailer for every 25,000 residents.

Rotella said the municipality can institute ordinances that could ban where someone could smoke in outdoor areas.

Ed Carter. Archive

“You could approve a store but you cannot allow them to smoke at the store,” Carter said.

Rotella said there are some potential positives with new possible cannabis establishments.

One is the “3% of municipal sales taxes imposed on receipt from the sale of cannabis or a cannabis hybrid retailer micro cultivator. That tax is in addition to the state’s 6.3% sales tax and state excess tax based on the THC content,” Rotella said. “So with that, such remittances become part of the municipality’s general revenue.”

“You go in and you buy $100 worth of cannabis at a (future possible) store that’s located in Naugatuck, 3% of that eventually comes back to the town through the state, back to us,” Carter said.

Rotella said the funds the municipality receives back can only be used for certain purposes such as streetscape improvements, neighborhood development where cannabis or hybrid retailers or cultivators are located, education programs or youth employment and training programs, mental health or addiction services and youth service bureaus.

The borough can also charge the cannabis hybrid retailer up to $50,000 for necessary and reasonable costs for public safety services related to the opening for the first 30 days, Rotella said.

During the meeting, Zoning Commission chairman Richard Cool asked what the commission’s role would be compared to the borough board.

“The mayor said the commission could make the decision as to what zones and where it would be sold at; but they would have the thought of the consumption part,” Carter said. “So we’re the sale and they’re the use.”

Commission members plan to reconvene with their thoughts on the draft regulations at next month’s meeting.