STAMFORD – Some Connecticut towns flatly oppose marijuana shops within their borders and banned them from the get-go.
Other towns struggle with the decision left to them by last year’s law legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Around the state, zoning officials are reworking regulations to figure out how to keep marijuana shops from attracting traffic, crime, adolescents and others susceptible to drug abuse, even as administrators weigh the revenue prospects of a 3 percent tax on sales.
But the strong stances and rule rewrites may be moot.
That’s because the law comes with a twist – though towns can block shops from popping up, they can’t stop doorstep deliveries.
In the coming months, marijuana consumers will be able to order take-out, and it won’t matter whether your town banned shops.
The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection now is vetting applicants seeking licenses to sell marijuana in shops, likely to open later this year, and to launch delivery services.
It’s expected that, at first, medical marijuana dispensaries already operating in Connecticut will handle many of the recreational-use sales. Dispensaries must meet expanded licensing requirements that include paying a fee.
According to the Department of Consumer Protection website, dispensaries may use their employees to make deliveries.
Once recreational-use shops and small growers are up and running, they, too, may have employees make deliveries. Services that only deliver will begin operating after that.
To get the marijuana business rolling in Connecticut, the state is issuing 14 different licenses. Besides retailers and delivery services, there are licenses for big and small growers, producers, packagers, manufacturers that incorporate marijuana into food and beverages, and more.
Interest in licensing is high, said Kaitlyn Krasselt, communications director for the department. Opening dates for application periods for the licenses began last month and continue through March. Each period lasts 90 days.
In Fairfield County, several towns were quick to prohibit marijuana shops.
Greenwich may have been the first. The law allowing sales took effect July 1 and Greenwich zoning officials approved a ban one week later.
New Canaan and Westport also have bans.
Darien officials are considering a moratorium while they gather more information. Wilton and Trumbull have moratoriums in place until September; Danbury until July; and Fairfield until next February.
In Norwalk, officials adopted a nine-month moratorium last month.
Norwalk Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin said officials want time to determine whether marijuana businesses “should be allowed in the city and if so, where and how many. We are just beginning those conversations and plan on conducting public meeting(s) to discuss in the near future.”
Norwalk residents have said they worry that marijuana induces young people to try stronger drugs, and that the city would be a marijuana magnet because surrounding towns have banned sales.
Stamford so far has neither a ban nor a moratorium, Land Use Bureau Chief Ralph Blessing said.
It’s because one of Stamford’s two medical marijuana dispensaries, Fine Fettle on Research Drive, is challenging city zoning regulations.
The Fine Fettle owner is asking that the dispensary permit be modified to include recreational sales, Blessing said.
“The argument is that the state statute says that if there is no explicit prohibition in local zoning regulations, then a similar use is allowed. And this is a similar use,” Blessing said. “Our understanding of state law is the same as their understanding. We gave it to the law department and we think we will have some understanding of what they think within a few weeks.”
Municipal zoning laws don’t say anything about recreational marijuana businesses because they were not legal until now, Blessing said. The state law is new and far-reaching, he said.
It states that towns may have one retailer for every 25,000 residents. That means Stamford could have up to five retailers and Norwalk could have three. Places like Darien and New Canaan that have fewer than 25,000 residents can have one retailer.
The law says adults age 21 and older may possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and up to 5 ounces in a locked container.
Adults may grow up to six marijuana plants at home, indoors, starting July 1, 2023.
Besides the 3 percent tax municipalities may collect on marijuana sales, the state will collect 6.35 percent.
The law says marijuana sellers may not advertise on TV, radio, print, internet or billboards unless they can prove that more than 90 percent of the audience is 21 or older.
Smoking marijuana is prohibited in state parks, beaches and waters.
Municipalities determine whether people may smoke marijuana on town streets, sidewalks, beaches or parks.
The law says police will be trained in advanced impaired-driving enforcement techniques.
But the part of the law that allows marijuana deliveries is perplexing, Blessing said.
“Why bother going to a store when you can have it delivered?” he said.