New Canaan, CT commission bans all cannabis sales, businesses in town

NEW CANAAN – If residents want cannabis, they’ll have to go outside town limits to buy it.

The Planning and Zoning Commission moved to ban all cannabis – recreational and medical – establishments this week, revising a previous moratorium that just addressed medical marijuana. The commission’s decision, which will go into effect Dec. 17, is consistent with the state law legalizing the use of cannabis earlier this year that gave towns the option to prohibit sales.

The commission broached this topic before when it voted in April 2019 to permanently ban medical marijuana dispensaries and production facilities. The latest text amendment to the regulations now broadens it to all cannabis. The commission had scheduled a public hearing in September on the topic, but no residents participated.

Commissioner John Kriz, who made the motion for the text change, said it’s consistent with present regulations and “simply an expansion of the concept to include all marijuana sales, not just for medical purposes.”

He argued it reduces the potential for cannabis sales, though the town “cannot regulate the use,” according to the state law.

To rationalize the move, Kriz said the new text is in keeping with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development regulations, since sales would “be a potential challenge to public health and safety.” He raised concern that the sale of cannabis in town may spur the “potential of use in the streets,” which could lead to the “possibility of a contact high,” for passersby.

“I’ve seen this in other municipalities,” where people in the vicinity of someone smoking cannabis also felt the effects, Kriz said to his fellow commissioners.

The regulation prohibits “location of any medical marijuana dispensary or production facility within any of the business zones.” The state law defines 11 different types of establishments that would be considered marijuana businesses, including retail stores, packaging companies, delivery enterprises, growers and transporters.

Though commission Chairman John Goodwin noted that the town “can always change our regulations, so no regulation is permanent.”

Grace Duffield