City Council Committee Finalizes West Hartford Cannabis Ordinance – We-Ha

The West Hartford City Council’s Community Planning and Economic Development Committee has approved a draft adult cannabis use ordinance and a public hearing is scheduled for next month.

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford City Council will consider an ordinance regulating adult cannabis use that has been developed over the past few months by the Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) Committee and city staff.

At its March 28 meeting, a draft adult cannabis use ordinance was reviewed and several committee members expressed concern that, as worded, the ordinance might allow cannabis retailers to be clustered in one part of town rather than scattered. The CPED committee asked Acting City Manager Rick Ledwith and City Planner Todd Dumais to consider further changes and options and the committee met again on Tuesday evening to finalize the ordinance.

Ledwith said Tuesday that while it was originally thought the city would be allowed up to three licenses for retailers and three for micro-growers — based on the one-per-25,000 restriction — staff has now confirmed that through June 30, 2024, the state will only allow two licenses of each type for West Hartford.

The CPED committee considered various distance options for buffer zones between cannabis establishments – ranging from 500 feet to 1,500 feet – “sensitive uses” which include schools, parks, municipal recreation facilities and libraries. Options were also considered to require a buffer zone from other municipal buildings – including the town hall – as well as child care centres.

“Including municipal buildings would create more restrictions,” Ledwith said, and he noted that fire stations, which are municipal buildings, are in commercial areas that might otherwise be eligible for location. a retailer. Requiring a stamp from daycare centers — of which the city has about 50 — would also leave very few possible packages available for cannabis establishments.

One of the options prepared by Ledwith for consideration by the CPED committee – and the one chosen for the full city council to consider (below, right) – provides a 500-foot buffer against uses sensitive and limits cannabis retailers to business districts. There are approximately 259 possible properties where retailers could be located, both in the North, South and Central areas of the city.

Under the proposed order, micro-cultivators or any other production facilities will only be allowed in industrial zones – which are mainly in the south of the city. A state license must be received and site plans must be approved before any cannabis establishment can open in West Hartford.

Screenshot from City of West Hartford website.

Council member Leon Davidoff, who chairs the CPED committee, endorsed the plan to allow retailers in business districts only, which is a reasonable alternative that would give them the ability to spread around town while leaving a reasonable number of properties available. . “I think we have to offer what I consider to be reasonable standards,” he said, to ensure that from a legal standpoint the city will not be challenged in court for creating zoning regulations so strict that use is essentially prohibited.

The most restrictive of the options considered by the committee would push all possible locations towards Elmwood. “I think having such a wide geographical area where it is possible to set up a store is the best way to go,” said committee member Ben Wenograd.

The ordinance currently being considered does not address smoking in public parks.

The city council will vote at its April 12 meeting to hold a public hearing on the ordinance regulating adult cannabis use, Ledwith said. The hearing and subsequent vote are scheduled to take place on May 24.

Adult possession of a certain amount of recreational cannabis was legalized in Connecticut in July 2021, and in October 2021, the portion of the law allowing municipalities to regulate the use of the substance went into effect. Section 148 of PA-21-1, “Responsible and Fair Regulation of Adult Cannabis Use Act” (RERACA) gives municipalities the authority, through zoning, to prohibit the establishment of cannabis establishments in town, to permit cannabis establishments but to create a special permit or other zoning approval process, to establish restrictions related to hours of operation and signage, and to restrict the proximity of settlements to uses such as parks and schools.

City Council unanimously passed a resolution last summer, asking then-City Manager Matt Hart to begin a study of the new law and make recommendations regarding the safe and secure use and sale of responsible for cannabis by adults in West Hartford.

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