Prospect P&Z says no to recreational marijuana

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

PROSPECT — The Planning and Zoning Commission on June 16 unanimously approved an amendment that adds “cannabis establishments” to the list of prohibited uses in the town’s zoning regulations.

The amendment prohibits any business that produces, manufactures, dispenses or sells recreational marijuana from opening in town.

The commission’s vote came the same day the state Senate approved legislation legalizing the use of recreational marijuana in a special session. The House passed the bill the next day, and Gov. Ned Lamont announced in a statement that he would sign it.

Under the bill, marijuana will be legal for individuals 21 and older to possess and use beginning July 1. A person will be allowed to have up to 1.5 ounces, with an additional 5 ounces secured in their home or vehicle. Retail sale of recreational cannabis in Connecticut is not expected to begin until May 2022, at the earliest.

Planning and Zoning member Michael Dreher said town officials were trying to put a regulation in place to get ahead of the new law.

“We’re just trying to get ahead of the game and update our regulations,” Dreher said.

Those who addressed the commission during a hearing on the amendment all favored keeping recreational marijuana businesses out of town.

Mayor Robert Chatfield said he’s personally opposed to any marijuana establishments, with the exception of medical marijuana, and urged the commission to do anything it can to keep sales out of town. He said he feared legalizing recreational marijuana will lead to more people driving under the influence.

“A 21-year-old will give it to some younger children. They do with alcohol, they’ll do it with this. I’m afraid we’re going to see motor vehicle deaths or accidents because people are high driving when they shouldn’t be,” Chatfield said.

Town Council member Richard Blanc echoed Chatfield’s sentiments.

“I just don’t want to see it get into the hands of kids,” Blanc said.

Commission member Ryan Russell said officials need to be careful to separate medicinal and recreational marijuana.

“All the concerns are valid, but I think those things from a medical and scientific perspective really need to be separated from what we’re discussing here with the recreational aspects,” Russell said.

Commission Chairman Gil Graveline said the regulations already prohibit the sale of medical marijuana but allow for facilities to grow it in town.

“There’s no licensed location in the town of Prospect that would dispense of it for medical marijuana,” Graveline said.

Graveline said if the commission waited to prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana until after it’s legal, it might have been too late.

“We can always come back and revisit it at a later date,” he said.