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Moratorium being sought for marijuana dispensaries in Darien

Photo by Megan Spicer

Planning and Zoning Chairman Sue Cameron, from left, and members Eric Voigt, Rich DiDonna listent to Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Ginsberg deliver his recommendation for a moratorium for medicinal marijuana dispensaries on Tuesday, Jan. 8 in Darien, Conn.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is seeking a moratorium for medical marijuana dispensaries in town.

Jeremy Ginsberg, the director of Planning and Zoning, recommended that the commission obtain a moratorium at Tuesday night's Planning and Zoning meeting so that more research regarding the dispensaries can be pursued. However, Ginsberg was unsure of whether the town should seek a six-month or year-long moratorium.

"The prudent thing to do is to do what the other communities have done, to do more research and analysis before jumping the gun on this," Ginsberg said.

The moratorium, Ginsberg said, would allow the town to ask questions of the state and observe how other towns that are not seeking a moratorium react to the dispensaries. Planning and Zoning member Rich DiDonna supported Ginsberg's recommendation and suggested a year-long moratorium.

"This is all new. None of us have any experience in this," DiDonna said.

Ginsberg will present the commission with an amendment to the planning and zoning regulations at the February meeting.

The amendment will be subject to a public hearing and approval from the Representative Town Meeting.

"A lot of towns are responding in different ways," Ginsberg said.

Member Steve Olvany said he recalled reading Monday that Simsbury had "put out a welcome mat" for medicinal marijuana.

Several towns in the surrounding areas -- such as New Canaan, Westport, Ridgefield and Trumbull -- have approved year-long moratoriums to delay making any decisions regarding the dispensaries.

Some towns, like Branford and Simsbury, have allowed medicinal manufacturers and dispensaries to start moving into town.

Ginsberg said no one has expressed interest with the department in establishing a dispensary in Darien. Manufacturing of anything in Darien is not allowed because there is no industrial zone in town, Ginsberg said.

Medical marijuana became law in Connecticut in 2012. Only those with a debilitating medical condition and a doctor's prescription will be able to purchase it, and only doctors who have been certified by the state may prescribe it. All the dispensaries, their owners and all pharmacy technicians must be registered with the state.

Each dispensary must have one licensed pharmacist on site at all times, according to the legislation. Beginning Jan. 1, marijuana production facilities and dispensaries were allowed to open their doors for business. Read Full Article 

There are 1,343 people eligible to purchase medical marijuana, with 337 of those residing in Fairfield County as of Nov. 18, according to the Department of Consumer Protection.

State regulations include distance requirements between marijuana-related businesses and schools and churches, and call for security for both growing and dispensing operations. Officials said they are among the strictest in the nation.

After proposals are accepted and researched, licenses for up to three growers and five dispensers will be awarded. By spring or summer, the first Connecticut-grown cannabis will reach dispensaries for patients who comply with the 11 eligible ailments.

As of Nov. 15, there were 27 dispensary applications and 16 production applications before the DCP.

Ginsberg said on Friday, Jan. 3, that he doesn't think the dispensaries will be a big issue for Darien, but that "the commission needs to understand it, discuss it and be aware of it."

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews

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