NORWALK – After hearing a number of concerns from local residents, the Common Council approved a marijuana ordinance on Tuesday that prohibits public consumption on city-owned property, but allows for designated smoking areas.
Norwalk also will allow no more than three cannabis retailers in the city.
Member Josh Goldstein said the new ordinance accomplished three goals – regulating public consumption, delegating the task of designating a smoking zone to the mayor and introducing a highly regulated and profitable industry to Norwalk.
“I think that we may well have drafted, you know, one of the most thoughtful cannabis ordinances that have been passed in the state of Connecticut,” said member Shanahan.
Under the regulations, the mayor must designate smoking spots before the rules go into effect. Goldstein said that no decision has been made yet on their locations.
The ordinance also created the Norwalk Cannabis Account, which by state law will fund educational programs and mental health and addiction services using the 3 percent municipal sales tax from retailers.
“There are strings attached to these monies whereby the money has to be spent on a certain number of stated purposes,” Goldstein explained.
He said while the council is constrained in determining where the revenue goes, organizations have the ability to apply for funding. He said applications will be reviewed in a nonpartisan grant process with city oversight.
But member Darlene Young expressed reservations about the Norwalk Cannabis Account.
“The things that we’re looking to fund, although it comes from the state, are reactionary, and it does nothing to me to improve the conditions and the lives of families that have been impacted by the war on drugs”
Young said that because the ordinance can be amended and those details are flexible, she would approve it.
Member Bryan Meek, the sole Republican on the council, said he was still opposed to the ordinance.
“I’m just going to remind you that you are about to approve three high-value targets for armed robbery,” Meek said. “And this is all over the news everywhere.”
He said while the council created a security plan to be reviewed, retail marijuana is a solution that’s “looking for problems.”
At the start of the meeting, Norwalk residents used the public comment section to voice their concerns regarding public safety.
Martin Tagliaferro, a Norwalk resident, said he was against the ordinance altogether and questioned how the city will keep drugs out of schools.
“Politicians always sit there and they sanctimoniously say, ‘oh, we need education. We need to teach people how bad drugs are.’ And now the town council is going to authorize this,” Tagliaferro said. “What’s a parent supposed to do when he’s trying to convince the kids drugs are bad?”
He said parents will be on the losing side of the argument because the city justified drug use.
Member Barbara Smyth later addressed Tagliaferro’s concerns, and said that as a parent of three, she understood them.
“Kids are going to find it. I know that. We know that,” Smyth said. “But when it is so highly regulated, there are protections for our kids.”
She said buyers must show identification to prove they are 21 or older.
Member Dominique Johnson said that throughout the process, it was very important to her that dispensaries do not get within a certain radius of schools.
“I’m very happy to see that this has not only been a part of the conversation, but we have gotten some confirmation that that will, in fact, be how we approach this in Norwalk,” Johnson said.
The council approved the ordinance with an 11 to 1 vote. It will go into effect once the city zoning regulations are amended to allow retail sales of recreational marijuana.