BRISTOL – As recreational cannabis across the state has been promoted by some as a means of economic development, the Bristol Economic and Community Development Board of Commissioners weighed in with how it felt about the substance Thursday evening.
City Councilor Sebastian Panioto said he felt the discussion of recreational cannabis was one that fell under the purview of the board’s interests.
Mickey Goldwasser, commissioner, said he hoped the city was putting in some kind of “guard rails” as he didn’t think the city wanted a cannabis dispensary “on every corner” like fast food locations. He also noted that cannabis-related business issues may not come before the board unless they were involved with a grant of some kind.
“There was a cap throughout the process of approval,” said Mayor Jeff Caggiano of recreational cannabis state legislation. “That density cap was removed. Right now, the Ordinance Committee needs to act in the next two or three months before the state issues all those permits and licenses for retail.”
The Bristol Ordinance Committee is currently working with a population cap of potentially one dispensary per every 40,000 residents in proposed legislation drafts.
“It’s important for us to put in guard rails to see how we best manage this,” Caggiano said. “We have to take into consideration with the ordinance, we don’t want all of the medical plus now additional adult recreational use customers to show up in one facility. This is my opinion. I’m speaking out loud on that. We want to make sure it’s limited but done appropriately.”
He said it was important to make sure such businesses were regulated and safe without overwhelming any one neighborhood within the city.
“If we do nothing, we will see more recreational spaces come in and once those licenses are approved by the state. We currently do not have a zoning or planning cap on this right now,” the mayor said.
Commissioner Howard Schmelder said he was concerned about current medical dispensaries being located within cities grandfathered into being able to have retail sales with no potential control from their given municipalities. The commissioner also noted he was not against medical use of cannabis.
“I thought the cities controlled their cities? Not the state of Connecticut,” he said. “I’m going to be an advocate for telling people they better come to the ordinance meetings and the council meetings. This is a major change in Bristol and it’s happening very fast and I think we need to slow down.”
City officials have said that Bristol’s current and sole medical cannabis dispensary, TruLieve, will likely be grandfathered as a hybrid medical and recreational cannabis distributor.
Commissioner Andrew Rasmussen-Tuller stated recreational cannabis was legal throughout the state and residents would be purchasing it regardless.
“Why not have them in Bristol but have it controlled? Nobody wants to see one on every corner but how can we do it the most beneficial way to the city?” he said. “I think that’s where the Ordinance Committee comes in place and it’s really making sure the public is aware of it so people can voice their concerns.”
The mayor said Bristol could ban all retail sales in town, however, he thought it was important to balance the issue as already around 3,000 patients for around the last eight years had been buying medical cannabis within the city.
“There will be public hearings and a regular process and it will take a month or two to go through,” he said.