Wednesday, December 22, 2021
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Zoning officials in Essex recently took action on two proposals relating to cannabis establishments in town. On Dec. 7, the Essex Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) voted to deny an application for a text amendment that would ban retail cannabis establishments in town while adopting a temporary one-year moratorium on applications or zoning permits related to cannabis dispensaries or producers.
The moratorium, which takes effect Dec. 31, would provide the commission time to form a subcommittee of two or three members to study the state’s recent legalization of cannabis.
Essex Zoning Enforcement Officer Carey Duques said other reasons for the moratorium would be “to research how other towns are responding to the legislation [and] prepare possible text amendments” to the town’s regulations.
“We should take time with this,” said PZC member Robert Day, at the Dec. 7 meeting. “I would be very surprised if someone comes in February and is like, ‘I know there is this moratorium, but can you remove it so I can do this?’ I don’t see that happening.”
PZC alternate Jeffrey Lovelace discussed how the federal government continues to regulate and criminalize marijuana.
“It is federally illegal to possess, sell marijuana, okay?” said Lovelace. “That is one of the reasons why a lot of these states have turned this stuff down and I’m not sure that we should be allowing something…We haven’t allowed anything yet, but I just think federally, it’s a crime to own this stuff.”
PZC alternate David Rosengren said he believed the work of the subcommittee could be completed within six months, rather than one year, with others on the commission clarifying that the moratorium could be lifted prior to the one-year time frame if regulations are developed.
The application to ban retail cannabis establishments was denied by the commission to allow for the possibility of retail, once it had been studied by the commission during the moratorium.
“I guess I would say, my opinion would be that I don’t, I would hate to just totally eliminate the availability of having a dispensary or the retail sales in Essex,” said PZC Chair Russell Smith.
Essex resident Roger Kern, who submitted the application to ban cannabis sales outright, had modified it to focus the ban solely on retail establishments, after citizens came forward at a Nov. 9 public hearing in support of medical marijuana.
During the public hearing portion of the Dec. 7 meeting on the application, Kern discussed his perceived negative ramifications of allowing retail marijuana establishments in Essex.
He cited several newspaper articles in the Hartford Courant detailing cannabis misuse and described the moratorium as “kicking the can down the road.”
“Retail sales are not expected to begin until fall of 2022, so the argument that a six-month or even a one-year moratorium would give Essex time to see how this works out in other towns is not necessarily valid, as there would be very little experience in that time frame, little to none,” said Kern. “This issue is not going to magically disappear. Today’s arguments will be the same year after year, so let’s deal with it now.”
Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email Elizabeth at email@example.com.
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