Selectmen propose ordinance to ban marijuana use in public places

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Beacon Falls First Selectman Gerard Smith, center, discusses a proposed ordinance that would prohibit people from smoking or consuming marijuana in public places as selectmen Michael Krenesky, left, and Christopher Bielik listen during the Board of Selectmen meeting July 12 at Town Hall. –ANDREAS YILMA

BEACON FALLS — Officials have proposed a new ordinance that would prohibit people from smoking or consuming marijuana in public places and outdoor dining areas of restaurants in town.

The Board of Selectmen backed the proposal at its July 12 meeting. The board set a hearing on the proposed ordinance for Aug. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Beacon Falls Senior Center, 57 North Main St.

“I’ll publicly stand up there and say that I think it’s the wrong message to send to our youth, to our kids,” First Selectman Gerard Smith said. “I think that there is a place for medical marijuana, but just smoking in general, I just think it just sends a bad message of what Beacon Falls is all about.”

The drafted ordinance prohibits smoking, consumption and possession of recreational cannabis, and the use of electronic cannabis devices and vapor products containing cannabis, on public and town property and in any outdoor sections of a restaurant. Anyone who violates the ordinance could face a $50 fine for each offense. Businesses would be fined $1,000 for each violation.

This ordinance is in response to the recent statewide legalization of recreational marijuana. Under the new law, which went into effect July 1, individuals 21 and older can legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana with an additional 5 ounces secured in their home or vehicle.

The proposed ordinance does not prohibit stores that sell recreational marijuana. Retail sale of recreational cannabis in Connecticut is not expected to begin until May 2022, at the earliest.

Smith said banning recreational marijuana establishments needs to be done through zoning regulations. The Planning and Zoning Commission will determine how to address cannabis establishments in town.

Smith said he’s made his opinion on recreational marijuana known to Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Donald Molleur.

Selectman Christopher Bielik said he was encouraged to see that the proposed ordinance covers a broad array of products, like vaping devices.

“Codifying that and expanding it so that it’s sort of a broad brush to cover all different contingencies. I am OK with doing that, taking that to the public,” Bielik said.

Some nearby towns have already taken a stance on recreational marijuana, while others are preparing to take one.

The Prospect Planning and Zoning Commission voted in June to add “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.

Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said borough officials plan to hold workshops on the new cannabis legislation and are working the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments to deliberate model regulations on different stances in regards to recreational marijuana.

“It’s something that has to be done right,” Hess said.