GUILFORD – The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to extend a moratorium on marijuana shops in town until the end of the year, much to the relief of residents at a Monday public hearing.
“The board has indicated a desire to extend the moratorium at least until the end of the year while we continue to evaluate the possibilities of the legalization in various forms in Guilford,” First Selectman Matthew Hoey said before the hearing.
Hoey explained he’s working on a draft ordinance for the board, should the town decide to permit marijuana businesses in the future.
All residents who spoke before the board expressed support for the moratorium, though their stated motivations were wide-ranging.
“I want to applaud the board’s decision,” Peter Filardi said. “There’s a ton of outstanding medical research that hasn’t caught up with legislation. I think it’s wise to pump the brakes a little bit. I think the texture and the character of this wonderful town is at stake and I applaud your decision.”
Lou Rinaldi, who said he is a registered patient in Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, said he had concerns about the licensing of the state’s marijuana industry, and appreciates the board taking time to consider the product’s future in Guilford.
“It’s about what, if any, types of businesses are we considering in these zones in Guilford?” he said. “For medical and adult-use means, we have had the same four licensed producers for over a decade, and they’re all from out-of-state corporations, and they all rely on a process called remediation [the removal of or reduction of THC levels from cannabis-derived products].”
Rinaldi said marijuana products currently aren’t required to have a label stating whether it has gone through remediation.
“When I go buy a gallon of milk, it’s gone under pasteurization,” he said. “That doesn’t happen in the current system.”
He also said he would like to see more diversity in the supply chain, including microcultivators, to operate in Guilford, similar to microbreweries in the state.
“It’s a farming community, and it makes a lot of sense for microcultivators,” he said. “I’m not talking about huge warehouses. I’m talking on a small scale.”
Rinaldi also expressed concerns about the lack of delivery services in town.
“The shoreline is generally not covered for delivery,” he said. “I want to keep the money in Guilford. It’s about a higher-end product available, more effective, less adulterated product available, allowing microcultivators, and ancillary businesses as well.”
Cody Richard, a resident who operates a marijuana delivery service, said he approves the continued moratorium because he feels the current definition of a marijuana establishment is too broad and needs to be refined. As long as his business falls under the current definition as a marijuana establishment, he can’t operate in Guilford.
“A lot of people view a cannabis establishment as retail or cultivator,” said Richard, who was denied operating his business in Guilford by the Planning and Zoning Commission. “I don’t have direct contact with cannabis. The town of Derby has approved my establishment there because it’s an administrative office. There’s no cash on site, there’s no cannabis on site.”
He said his delivery drivers pick up and deliver marijuana orders to both medicinal and recreational users, require recipients to provide identification for delivery, and have the can refuse delivery of any product they feel would violate a legally-authorized procedure of delivery.
Resident Sue Hydinger also praised the moratorium on marijuana establishments. Though she said she doesn’t disparage medicinal marijuana needs, she had personal reasons to support the moratorium.
“How prudent is this decision?” she asked. “Though it’s legal, I’m glad we’re pausing to consider whether Guilford will host cannabis retail.”
Hydinger expressed concerns about potential impaired drivers, increased anxiety in users, psychosis and additional strain on the police department.
“A future officer may be more attracted to Guilford to know they don’t have to deal with that,” she said.
Hydinger also worried about the impression legal marijuana would have on children. She shared the story of her son, Joshua, whose marijuana use evolved to a wider drug addiction. He eventually succumbed to a bad batch of a narcotic laced with fentanyl in 2018, she said.
“Consider the enormous impact of how one action can be a slippery slope to another,” she said. “I think Guilford making this decision to have these establishments is not where we legally, ethically need to go.”
Robert Meehan, who officiates basketball games in town, said he didn’t see the benefit of marijuana establishments in Guilford and was concerned it would become more accessible to the youth.
“[Children] don’t need another opportunity to go out at 10 o’clock at night,” he said. “I’m concerned about what this means to people. What’s this going to become? There is tons of information that shows long-term effects.”