Shelton P&Z bans pot-growing facilities for nine months

The Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission has passed a nine-month moratorium on applications to establish a marijuana-growing facility in the city.

The ban on pot-producer or -dispensary facilities will remain in effect through June 1, 2014. The purpose is to give the P&Z time to better understand new state regulations governing the legalization of medical marijuana in Connecticut before the commission comes up with its own local regulations.

Medical marijuana became legal on Oct. 1, 2012 in Connecticut, based on action by the state Legislature and governor, but the specific guidelines and regulations pertaining to the law were just approved this week by state officials and technically won’t go into effect for a few more days.

A marijuana producer would grow the substance, and a dispensary would be a place where patients could go to purchase the substance for medical reasons.

Unanimous vote

The P&Z approved the nine-month moratorium on a 6-0 vote at a special meeting Wednesday night. The vote followed a public hearing that attracted only one speaker — a cancer patient who was worried any action by the Shelton P&Z would have a statewide impact.

Timothy Clancy of Stratford asked whether a local moratorium could stop pot-growing and -dispensing facilities from opening anywhere in Connecticut.

“I’m a cancer patient,” Clancy said, “and I might not be alive in nine months.”

Clancy told the P&Z that medical marijuana is “medicine,” and he was speaking out to “help people get around the stigma” of having marijuana used for medical purposes.

Richard Schultz, Shelton P&Z administrator, said any moratorium approved by the P&Z would only cover Shelton and have no impact in other towns and cities. In fact, applications for marijuana-growing facilities have been made in some other municipalities while some communities have passed temporary moratoriums similar to the one in Shelton.

‘A temporary planning tool’

Schultz said the Shelton moratorium is “a temporary planning tool” the commission can use to give it time to enact local regulations before an application might be submitted.

Schultz said it would be “premature” to have passed local rules and had the Shelton P&Z accept possible applications for medical marijuana facilities before having time to fully comprehend the state regulations.

“We’ve done moratoriums on issues like this in the past,” he said.

Where should they be allowed?

Anthony Panico, P&Z consultant, said such facilities now are legal in the state and the Shelton regulations will be designed to determine where they might be appropriate in Shelton.

“What zone should these type of uses be allowed and under what circumstances?” is the question that the Shelton P&Z needs to address in the next nine months, Panico said.

Schultz said it’s important for the public to understand that marijuana won’t be grown outdoors on farmland. Instead, it would be grown “in a warehouse that is protected from vandalism and [from] being entered inappropriately.”

When making this point, Schultz said Shelton now has about 1,000 acres of active farmland.