NEWINGTON - A medical marijuana dispensary (or several) could be in the townâ€™s future.
Two applications for special permits were presented at the last meeting of the Town Plan & Zoning Commission, which would have to amend its zoning regulations to approve at least one.
Patients with certain ailments who possess a Connecticut medical marijuana certificate can obtain their prescription at dispensaries. This follows the stateâ€™s January announcement to open at least three more in Connecticut, adding to the nine currently operating.
Newington attorney John Kelly, representing applicant Seva Sadan, LLC, presented a zoning amendment that would allow dispensaries in the Berlin Turnpike Business Zone. These facilities are currently restricted to the townâ€™s industrial zones, at a minimum distance of 1,000 feet from single-family residential neighborhoods. The applicantâ€™s building at 2272 Berlin Turnpike is located 775 ft. from Cedarwood Lane. The new proposal would reduce the required distance to 400 feet.
â€śI think the proposed amendments would still be consistent with commissionersâ€™ original intent and goals while at the same time allowing for a dispensary in a location where people assume it would be allowed,â€ť Kelly said this week.
â€śI expect they will give it fair consideration when they factor in the issues that were raised,â€ť he said.
The applicant intends to open the 600 square foot dispensary in a building he owns, joining current tenants MedCare Express Urgent Care and LabCorp. The entrance would be discreetly located at the back of the building with little to no signage, following state program requirements.
â€śI think we can continue to protect the citizens of the town while offering this to a wider area of locations, and perhaps better serve people in our community and beyond who need this form of medication to make their lives a little better,â€ť Kelly told the commission.
Town Planner Craig Minor helped draft the amendment, currently under review by the Capitol Region Council of Governments. As the regional planning authority, the CRCOG sanctions all zoning changes made to town regulations.
The proposed changes will also be subject to a public hearing before they can be adopted. The last hearing received very little interest, and commissioners agreed there were no other reasons to deny Seva Sadanâ€™s permit other than the distance requirement.
â€śWe donâ€™t have the luxury of waiving the 1000 feet, which is unfortunate in my opinion because this application meets all the other criteria,â€ť TPZ Chairman Frank Aieta said. â€śThis is the only hang-up.â€ť
In 2012, two years after the state legislature first enacted the medical marijuana program, the TPZ added a special section in its regulations dedicated to dispensary and production facilities. The decisions surrounding the distance requirements were made carefully, as there were very few facilities in the state at the time and the concerns were many. Since then, there have been no significant issues of criminal activity or safety hazards surrounding operations.
â€śUnfortunately we had no experience because we were one of the first towns to tackle this,â€ť Chairman Frank Aieta said. â€śWe found out so many years later that there are no problems with existing facilities. They are very secure.â€ť
According to the most recent statistics released in January, there are 22,348 medical marijuana patients in Connecticut, under the care of 807 certifying physicians and advanced practice registered nurses.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.