Commissioner: 'Reefer Madness' all over again?

Planning and Zoning Commissioners looking to reject a year-long ban on medical marijuana facilities in town, instead compromised on a four-month moratorium. The compromise came at Wednesday night’s meeting, upon urging from Town Planner Jamie Brätt and the Town Attorney Mario Coppola.

Brätt and Coppola agreed that time was needed to explore the state law legalizing marijuana production and dispensaries for medical purposes and, in turn, creating regulations for the town. Brätt also said potential applicants have already contacted her office. The moratorium means that any applicant will now have to wait four months to apply.

A few nearby towns, including Shelton, have adopted moratoriums.

Commissioners Fred Garrity and Tony Silber, both democrats, spoke out against a moratorium, citing that it could take Trumbull out of the running for potential new business development, since the state only plans to grant a limited number of licenses for medical marijuana businesses.

“Maybe I’m oversimplifying this but there are thousands of drugs that are legal and are made in legal manufacturing facilities,” Garrity said. “All of a sudden every town thinks we need to reinvent the wheel and protect ourselves from this. I’s almost like ‘Reefer Madness’ all over again.”

Garrity said he wasn’t championing a medical marijuana business opening in town but was thinking of Trumbull’s empty industrial zones.

“I’m not in favor of this because there are a number of other towns that have done this and there are only going to be a finite number of opportunities,” Garrity said of a temporary ban. “I don’t think we should put Trumbull behind the eight ball on this.”

Only one resident spoke during the moratorium’s public hearing, echoing support of a compromise on the amount of time business should be banned.

“We’ don’t want to miss the boat on business coming here but the planner and attorney say we need criteria in place,” resident Dave Anand said. “Let’s give it two to three months.”

Brätt, who proposed the 12-month moratorium, said that the problem with having no moratorium is there has been no time to study the law and an applicant can come forward with there own regulations.

“We as a body should work together to develop thoughtful regulations as we have done in the past with new uses,” Brätt said.

The town planner said she has already received inquires from potential operators of legal marijuana businesses.

“The phone has already rung,” Brätt said.

“That proves my point,” Garrity responded. “It proves there are entrepreneurs willing to invest in Trumbull and engage in a legal business activity,” Garrity said.

Commissioner Silber agreed that he didn’t see the necessity of a moratorium.

“We will still have ample power to review, modify and reject any applications,” Silber said. “I haven’t heard the case made why this is negative thing. Commissioner Garrity mentioned ‘Reefer Madness’ and I wonder if there is anything to that.”

Brätt said there are just too many unknowns in the law, and it could mean an applicant planning to open up in a zone or area of town that that perhaps the commission doesn’t feel comfortable with. Bratt said, worst-case scenario, that town regulations could be drafted in 65 days but an applicant could come before the commision in 30 days with no moratorium.

Attorney Coppola agreed with Brätt’s concerns and urged the commission to give some time to draft regulations.

“No one on this commission has read the law,” Coppola said.

Silber initially made a motion for a three-month moratorium, but Brätt said staff would need about four-months to get regulations in place. Acting Chairman Richard Deecken thought the four months was a fair middle ground.

“This will not put us tremendously out of running for potential business to move into Trumbull,”  Deecken said of the compromise.

Silber said he still didn’t see the negative impact of nixing a moratorium altogether, but said he would defer to the wisdom of the town planner and attorney.

The final vote for a four-month moratorium passed unanimously, 5-0. Alternates Steven Mahlstedt and Don Scinto voted in place of Commissioners Arlyne Fox and Chairman Anthony Chory, who were not present.