Picture this: You're walking up Main Street on a brisk fall day. You stroll by Crew Cuts, noticing the young families in the window, continue past Pinocchio Pizza, Garelick & Herbs and then ... Ye Olde Pot Shoppe.
While it may be a far-fetched scenario, medical marijuana was approved in Connecticut and there will need to be "dispensaries," which must pass with town zoning codes, the law states. As it stands, a medical marijuana dispensary could go anyplace a pharmacy could, according to Town Counsel Ira Bloom. If it seems that a marijuana dispensary would be strictly the domain of Connecticut's cities, think again -- last week one was proposed for the Post Road in Fairfield.
Would a marijuana dispensary be anathema to quaint New Canaan? Or would it be, like, totally groovy? Depends on whom you ask.
"At first blush, it does not seem complimentary of our town, or fitting, and I don't think it's something residents would support," said Tucker Murphy, the executive director of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce who also is a member of the Town Council.
Murphy's colleague on the council, John Engel, noted that New Canaan does not traditionally interfere with the free market, and if a business is legal, it ought to be up to the market to decide its fate.
"The town hasn't shown much of an appetite for restraint of trade," said Engel, who is a realtor at Brotherhood & Higley. "I believe the market will dictate what New Canaan wants. The kind of stores we don't want won't be successful and won't be a long-term problem, and I consider a pot shop not to be a long-term problem."
Medical marijuana became law in Connecticut in 2012. Only those with a debilitating medical condition and a doctor's prescription will be able to purchase it, and only doctors who have been certified by the state may prescribe it. All the dispensaries, their owners and all pharmacy technicians must be registered with the state. Each dispensary must have one licensed pharmacist on site at all times, according to the legislation.
"The questions that are unanswered right now are: What can P&Z do in terms of regulations to pro-actively to control it?" Bloom told the Planning and Zoning Commission at its meeting Aug. 27. "Can you prohibit it? Simply say, `This will not be allowed in New Canaan?' I don't think there's an answer to that question. It will have to be tried in a court of law. In other states, those cases have gone both ways."
The law was passed to provide relief for those who are in pain and may lack an appetite.
"There are some people who have had cancer, who have had terrible back problems, who could not eat," said Sandra Ross, a psychologist who practiced in town for 20 years, mainly dealing with adolescents. "Under those circumstances, I can't see anything but a blessing. Whether it's in New Canaan or Norwalk, as long as it's accessible medically to the people who need it, I don't care one way or the other. I don't think it would give the town a bad image. Ecstasy is much more of a problem around here. There are drugs around that are far more threatening than medical marijuana."
Interim Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said he thought that a pot store would not be likely a source of illegal activity if doctors prescribe the marijuana appropriately and all rules are followed.
"Our main concern would be people smoking marijuana and driving," he said, adding that intoxication via marijuana can be more difficult to detect in drivers than those who have consumed alcohol, but no less dangerous.
Even if a marijuana dispensary came to New Canaan, it would probably not locate itself on Main or Elm streets, Town Councilman Roger Williams said.
"I think the rents on Elm Street would prohibit such a store from opening there. (It) probably would have to be in a lower-square-footage space," Williams said, adding that he is in principle not opposed to the idea of a store. "I would have an objection to patients using the drug on Elm Street. I wouldn't want people walking around smoking joints. As long as you take them home and administer it there, it's not so different from a liquor store or pharmacy."
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