MONTVILLE – After a motion to ban any more marijuana retailers “short-circuited” discussions on how to regulate the businesses, the Montville Planning and Zoning Commission voted to reject the ban and take more time to discuss the issue before the town’s moratorium ends in November.
Montville was one of the first towns in Connecticut with a legal marijuana retailer, after its medical marijuana dispensary The Botanist opened up sales for recreational use in January — one of nine to do so at the time.
But the town hasn’t yet written regulations for marijuana business. Instead in May the town imposed a six-month moratorium on additional marijuana businesses, with the stated intention of taking the time to deliberate on how best to handle any additional retailers, growers or edible manufacturers.
That discussion quickly came to a halt before it started in June, when then-Commissioner Anthony Siragusa moved to ban more retailers and any growers in Montville, and Town Planner Liz Burdick drafted regulations banning additional businesses, but allowing The Botanist to remain open and potentially expand in the future.
On Tuesday night, the commission held a public hearing to consider the new rules.
According to Commissioner Chuck Longton, the point of the moratorium was for careful consideration of a complex issue and to take time in writing regulations which might include banning additional marijuana retailers. The immediate motion to ban more retailers, in his view, “short-circuited” that discussion.
Longton urged the commission to reject a ban, and to return to discussions while the moratorium is in place.
“In November, we may well vote to say no, but at least then we’ll have the benefit of the time and the knowledge that we gained looking at all the details,” Longton said.
Most of the commission agreed with Longton, voting to reject the ban with only Commissioner John Poole voting for the ban, and Commissioner Bruce Duchesneau abstaining.
But during a brief discussion on a ban prior the vote, opinion on the commission appeared split.
Duchesneau asked other members of the commission why Montville should allow another retailer, saying he didn’t see one. The Botanist, he told the commission, is in the ideal location for a marijuana retailer, and the lone outlet in town hasn’t led to a shortage for people in town.
Burdick said she wasn’t aware of anyone else applying for a state license to operate a retail outlet in Montville. She said from talking to people in the industry, she doesn’t know if there would even be interest in another retailer in Montville.
Commissioner Wills Pike said he thought the town was fine with one retailer, but he said he liked the idea of another marijuana business, like a grower or manufacturer, that would bring in revenue for the town.
In the first six months of the year, Burdick said the town collected $130,931 in revenue from The Botanist, which pays 3 percent of its sales to the town .
Pike said that Montville had budgeted $200,000 in marijuana revenues toward Project Courage for substance abuse programs in schools.
Commissioner John Desjardins said an edible manufacturer would have a lot of equipment that would be subject to property tax, which would benefit the town. Commissioner John Poole argued that the money to the town shouldn’t be the commission’s consideration.
“Do we want more? I think that’s a pretty straightforward and simple thing, and I don’t think money fits into that,” Poole said.
Commissioner John Estelle said he was concerned that banning additional retailers in town would set up a monopoly for The Botanist, and wondered if the number in town could be limited like for package stores.
“I am opposed to a blanket prohibition on retail establishments, and I do think this commission should be open to other establishments that wish to open under certain restrictions,” Estelle said.
Chair Sara Lundy urged the commissioners to review regulations drafted by Burdick ahead of their next meeting, and the commission discussed setting up special meetings to give them more time to discuss marijuana before the moratorium ends in November.