BY ANDREAS YILMA
NAUGATUCK — The Board of Mayor and Burgesses on March 16 adopted a new ordinance to limit where cannabis and cannabis products can be consumed.
The new ordinance, which went into effect March 21, prohibits cannabis use in any form “on land owned or controlled by the borough including but not limited to, all sidewalks, parks and municipal-owned land or buildings, as well as at an outdoor dining establishments.”
The ordinance calls for a $50 fine if someone has consumed cannabis outdoors where it’s not permitted. The money colected from fines will go to the borough’s cannabis account and will be used for youth-related purposes such as mental health or addiction services or community civic engagements.
The Zoning Commission has approved the borough’s first cannabis retail establishment, a hybrid retail store that would serve both medical and recreational-use customers. Verano Holdings and its subsidiary, Caring Nature EJB2, will operate the store at 585 S. Main St.
The store’s brand name is Zen Leaf.
The borough board also limited no more than two cannabis establishments, of which no more than one may be a retail or hybrid retail facility in the borough, meaning the only other cannabis establishment that can apply to be in the borough is a cultivator in the Industrial Park.
A 3% sales tax on cannabis products sold in Naugatuck will be dedicated to the borough, which will go to the cannabis account.
“You can’t approve funds for anything else. These funds are not general funds,” borough attorney Ned Fitzpatrick said. “They can’t be used to reduce the mill rate. It’s a specific revenue source for a specific funding purpose.”
Burgess Jan Mizeski said she thought the cannabis fund is important because “if we’re going to pass this, then some of it should be going to the problem in the first place.”
The state made it legal for adults 21 years and older to possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana as of July 1, 2021. The recreational sale of cannabis at dispensaries began rolling out on Jan. 10.
Burgess Charles Marenghi said the borough should re-evaluate the ordinance every two years. “We can’t say those guidelines are forever.”
Zoning Enforcement Officer Ed Carter said the zoning looked at location, hours and signage. They basically mirrored liquor store hours, he added.
Deputy Mayor Bob Neth and Burgess Rocky Vitale were both against cannabis but Neth voted no against the ordinance.
“I think we have an obligation to protect the borough. My concern is that in the future, retailers or cultivators are going to start to have a pretty good lobby and they’re going to go to the state and we don’t know if the state is going to change the rules in any way, shape or form,” Vitale said. “So think we need to keep local control so we need to have this in place.”
Neth said he understands the need for the ordinance.
“We’re going to benefit revenue wise for that reason,” Neth said. “That being said, I’m opposed to any type of this type facility and I agree with Rocky that we need to move forward with an ordinance but my vote on principal is going to be a no.”
“It is an ordinance that needs to be passed,” Dambowsky said. “Whether you’re in favor of cannabis being sold in Naugatuck or not, this ordinance has to be passed to safeguard the rights of those people on both sides.