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The Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) unanimously approved an addition to its requirements last week. The amendment establishes a nine-month moratorium on accepting applications that seek to permit the operation of medical marijuana producers and dispensary facilities in town.
The reason for this moratorium is to allow the PZC to review the new law passed in the recently concluded state legislative session. The new law-"State of Connecticut Regulation of the Department of Consumer Protection Concerning Palliative Use of Marijuana"-allows for the use of medical marijuana in some cases, as well as production and sale of the drug for the specified uses listed.
The nine-month moratorium will allow the commission to study the new legislation as well as the application process for producers and dispensary facilities, and to draft and, if the commission decides, to adopt municipal regulations regarding the production and distribution of medical marijuana within the town.
The effective date of the moratorium is Friday, Oct. 11 and the expiration date will be July 11, 2014, unless extended by the PZC.
Town Planner David Anderson told the commission the state has now made it legal to produce and distribute medical marijuana, and as result, it is accepting applications for production facilities and dispensaries. Applications will close on Nov. 15. He said it is expected that after the first of the year, the state will issue licenses to three production facilities and three to five dispensaries.
As a precautionary measure, he explained, the town wants to implement the nine-month moratorium to examine the potential implications and effects of the new law and the law's application to the town's zoning regulations and requirements. In November the commission will meet with Town Attorney Ira Bloom to discuss the issue.
Other towns are implementing moratoriums. The Regional Council of Governments has reviewed Madison's moratorium language and found no inconsistencies with state regulations, Anderson said.
Southington has already implemented a moratorium. North Haven, Orange, and Milford are considering moratoriums, with language similar to Madison's language, according to Christopher Traugh, a commissioner.
Francine Larson, a member of the commission, asked Anderson why established pharmacies cannot distribute the drug, if it is medicinal. Anderson explained that pharmacies are regulated by federal law, which still lists marijuana as illegal. At this time there are 881 potential patients in the state who would qualify for medical marijuana, with a list of 12 medical conditions for which its use is considered appropriate, Commissioner Ron Clark said.
The commission also received a letter from Tina Garrity of the Madison Alcohol and Drug Education Coalition that supported the moratorium.