New London poised to welcome cannabis businesses
New London — The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission this month will consider new regulations permitting the sale and cultivation of marijuana in certain areas of the city.
The move comes as the state, which passed a law last year that allows retail sale of recreational marijuana, has started accepting applications for a variety of businesses associated with the cannabis industry. Retail sales are not expected to start until at least the end of the year.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on May 19 will take up zoning regulation amendments that clear the path to accept special permit applications for cannabis cultivators, delivery services, retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, micro-cultivators, transporters and other businesses associated with the marijuana business and allowed by state law.
The regulations were debated by the commission at a meeting in April and generally limit businesses to commercial and light industrial office districts. With certain restrictions, retail sale of marijuana, along with medical marijuana sales, would also be allowed in the central business district.
The commission decided against allowing marijuana businesses in the maritime and neighborhood business districts.
The proposed New London regulations would bar retail sale to anyone under the age of 21 or within 500 feet from schools, libraries, playgrounds or recreational facilities. Regulations also limit the size of a retail operation to 3,000 square feet of selling space. The state law regulating cannabis is more than 300 pages and bars consumption of cannabis products on the premises in of any of the permitted establishments.
In New London, anyone can seek approval from the commission for a cannabis-related business, but that approval would not become effective until the applicant is issued a state permit. Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Barry Levine said the provision eliminates the idea of a first come, first served process and does not put the city in the position of deciding who gets issued “a golden ticket.”
“I don’t want us to be in a position to determine which permit gets approval from the state,” Levine said.
New London, Norwich and Groton residents are expected to have an edge when the state starts issuing permits. Half of all cannabis business licenses must got to social equity applicants, defined as “people living in communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition.” These are areas with historically high conviction rates for drug-related offenses or with unemployment rates greater than 10%.
While some municipalities have moved to enact bans or moratoriums on marijuana-related businesses, cities like Norwich have already moved to welcome the industry and the accompanying boost to city coffers from taxes. The Norwich City Council last month passed an ordinance to allow for “plant-based” businesses.
State law dictates that municipalities are allowed “one licensed adult-use retailer and one licensed micro-cultivator per 25,000 residents.”
Like Norwich, Levine said, the city has had a number of inquiries from individuals interested in setting up a business. The May 19 meeting will include a public hearing on the proposed regulations.