New Milford could allow medical marijuana dispensaries
NEW MILFORD — The town zoning commission is considering a proposed ordinance change that would permit the opening of a medical marijuana dispensary.
The commission had considered and abandoned such a zoning change two years ago, but is revisiting the issue at the request of New Options Healing, which hopes to open a dispensary at 260 Danbury Road, Route 7.
“I think if you gave us a chance in your town, we wouldn’t be detrimental,” company President Russell Lutz told the commission Tuesday night.
A dispensary must be licensed by the state Department of Consumer Protection.
Town zoning enforcement officer Laura Regan said the proposal made two years ago would have allowed dispensaries in the general business use zone, where traditional pharmacies are permitted. She said New Options Healing’s request is to add dispensaries to the list of permitted uses in the more restrictive B-2 zone.
If the zoning change is approved, Lutz would return to the commission with a separate application for the dispensary, including site plans and security details.
“This would basically be a CVS with more security than you’ve ever seen,” Lutz said.
The dispensary would have two different security systems in place, a security guard on-site 24/7 and constant supervision by the state using a state-of-the-art surveillance system, Lutz said. There would be no advertising, and only a small sign above the door with the company’s name.
“You won’t even know we’re here until you need to,” Lutz said.
The zoning commission will continue the public hearing on the zoning change at its June 28 meeting.
Discussion of the earlier proposal focused on whether the zoning change should mandate dispensaries be at least 1,500 feet from schools and churches. On Tuesday, commissioners questioned whether the town should mandate a separation distance this time around, or rely on the state regulation prohibiting dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school, church, playground or day care.
Connecticut has six dispensaries, including one in Bethel. Three others have been licensed by the state and are expected to open this summer.
Lutz said the Bethel location is overwhelmed by demand, and opening one in New Milford would help relieve that pressure. However, if New Milford grants the zoning change, it was not immediately clear how soon the state might approve an application for a new dispensary.
“We are not currently accepting applications for new dispensary facilities, but may at some point as the program expands and there are more patients to serve,” said Lora Rae Anderson, spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer Protection.
To buy medical marijuana, a patient must obtain a doctor’s permission and a state-issued photo identification card. Each patient only receives one card, but a caregiver can obtain the marijuana if the patient is unable, Lutz said.
Mark Landers, one of Lutz’s partners in the venture, said medical marijuana has helped him immensely in treating nerve pain since he lost a leg in 2010. He was prescribed painkillers and opioids to deal with the pain and became addicted. But after switching to medical marijuana, he was able to get off opioids.
“It’s allowed me to function in my life and get back to the new norm,” he said.
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