NEW MILFORD -- The town's Zoning Commission has sought legal advice to make sure New Milford has the right regulations in place to control pharmaceutical marijuana growth and distribution.

By the spring, Connecticut residents with certain debilitating medical conditions will be able to buy state-approved, locally grown marijuana from licensed dispensaries. Town Attorney Randy DiBella was called on by the commission to review the new state law and give advice on the best way to proceed.

A public hearing on medical marijuana in New Milford has been continued to Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Loretta Brickley Room of Roger Sherman Town Hall. Chief of Police Shawn Boyne and DiBella are being asked to attend.

At the zoning meeting on Tuesday, DiBella gave his legal opinion, which said enacting a moratorium on dispensaries and production facilities would open the town to a potential lawsuit by an interested business.

"I would rather see a specific restriction," he said. "That sends a stronger message than a moratorium. A moratorium is a policy statement. We're creating a plaintiff situation if we enact a moratorium."

The town's authority is limited to zoning approval of where dispensaries and growing facilities can go. The state Department of Consumer Protection has overall purview in issuing licenses and regulating marijuana facilities, DiBella said.

"If we don't establish this use to specific zones for pharmaceutical use, anyone could come in and apply to grow marijuana as an agricultural right," said Bill Taylor, the Zoning Commission chairman. "Our regulations should stipulate such growing would be for pharmaceutical use and the facilities should be treated similar to pharmacies."

In November, the Planning Commission recommended against zone changes that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in B-1 and RI zones. It also recommended against a zone change allowing medical marijuana production facilities in the B-2 zone.

Planning's recommendation against these changes was based on such use being contrary to the town's Plan of Conservation and Development. With this decision, the Zoning Commission must now pass any of these regulation changes by a super majority vote of at least four members.

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