By Austin Mirmina.
(June 17, 2021) Haddam’s Planning and Zoning Committee voted unanimously on Thursday to remove the recreational sale of marijuana from its list of prohibited uses, agreeing to allow dispensaries to open by special permit only.
“I think that marijuana, at least for me, is the exception [on the list],” member Gina Block said.
The committee spent a majority of the meeting exhausting its list and discussing whether certain items needed to be updated or removed entirely. Members also voted to remove tattoo parlors and allow them to open by special permit only, in addition to allowing the outdoor use of wood-burning furnaces in accordance with state guidelines. The changes will need to be approved and voted on a second time at the committee’s next meeting before taking effect.
The decision comes just two days after the Connecticut General Assembly approved a new bill that would legalize marijuana. Governor Ned Lamont, who initially threatened to veto the bill because of problematic language related to a social equity provision, will need to sign it before it becomes law.
The state legislature has left it up to municipalities to decide whether marijuana dispensaries should be allowed to open, also giving them the power to restrict hours of operation, signage, and location. According to the bill, towns with 25,000 residents or less can only have one dispensary; Haddam’s population is 8,227.
The back-and-forth debate lasted nearly an hour, with members talking through moral dilemmas and reconciling opinions. Block, who joined the Planning and Zoning Committee in 2017, spoke about the distinction that “there might be some [prohibited uses] that we are O.K. with but maybe that’s not something that belongs in the village district.”
Haddam Representative, Christine Palm, who voted to approve the bill during a House session on Wednesday, said she would support either decision by the committee.
“I think a lot of towns are going to be struggling with this, especially small towns like ours,” Palm said.
Member Dan Luisi spoke about Higganum center’s need for more “go-to businesses” to help jolt economic activity, which he said has steadily declined over the years. But Luisi stopped short of advocating for the potential economic benefits of marijuana dispensaries. Under the new bill, towns would receive a three percent sales tax from marijuana sales.
In removing the sale of marijuana from the prohibited uses list, the committee showed its willingness to change with the times and adapt to a society that has become more accepting of recreational marijuana use.
“If the criteria has changed, then we should take a look,” member Wayne LePard said. “Maybe we should change.”
Editor’s note: 6/18/2021 Updated to add in the line “The changes will need to be approved and voted on a second time at the committee’s next meeting before taking effect.”
Clarification From Haddam Town Planner Bill Warner: “the commission can not change their regulations until they conduct a noticed public hearing and listen to the public’s input. This was a general discussion that had no impact on the current regulations.”