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Saturday, March 24 Local

Medical marijuana dispensaries topic of discussion at zoning meeting

While Colorado marijuana distributors are opening, towns in Connecticut, including Darien, are starting the conversation about how to approach the topic of medical marijuana dispensaries.

The long-term planning for medical marijuana dispensaries is up for discussion at the Tuesday, Jan. 7, Planning and Zoning meeting, according to its agenda, along with incentive housing zones, parking, planning and zoning bylaws, and the town plan of conservation and development.

Jeremy Ginsberg, the director of Planning and Zoning, said 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."

The meeting is set for 8 p.m. in room 206 in Town Hall.

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

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Several towns in the surrounding areas -- such as New Canaan, Westport, Ridgefield, Trumbull -- have approved year-long moratoriums to delay making any decisions regarding the dispensaries. There is no mention of a moratorium on the Darien Planning and Zoning agenda.

Ginsberg said no one has expressed interest with the department in establishing a dispensary in Darien. Manufacturing medical marijuana in Darien is not allowed in any zone in town, according to Ginsberg.

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.

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, and by next spring or summer for the first Connecticut-grown cannabis to 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.

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