BRISTOL — While statewide recreational cannabis has been promoted by some as a means of economic development, Bristol’s Board of Economic and Community Development Commissioners weighed in on their thoughts on the substance on Thursday night.
Councilor Sebastian Panioto said he believed the discussion of recreational cannabis was in the interests of council.
Mickey Goldwasser, commissioner, said he hopes the city puts up some sort of “guardrail” because he doesn’t think the city wants a cannabis dispensary “on every corner” like fast food joints. He also noted that commercial issues related to cannabis may not come before the council unless they are involved in some form of grant.
“There was a cap throughout the approval process,” Mayor Jeff Caggiano said of the state’s recreational cannabis legislation. “This density cap has been removed. Right now, the ordinance committee needs to act within the next two or three months before the state issues all of those retail permits and licenses.
The Bristol Ordinance Committee is currently working with a population cap of potentially one dispensary per 40,000 residents in proposed bills.
“It’s important for us to put some guardrails in place to see how we best handle this,” Caggiano said. “We have to consider the prescription, we don’t want all the medical and now additional adult recreational clients showing up at one facility. It’s my opinion. I speak loud and clear about it. We want to make sure it’s limited but done appropriately.
He said it was important to ensure these businesses were regulated and safe without overwhelming any area of the city.
“If we don’t do something, we’ll see more recreational spaces coming in and once those licenses are approved by the state. We currently don’t have a zoning or planning cap on this,” the mayor said.
Commissioner Howard Schmelder said he is concerned that current medical dispensaries are located in grandfathered cities to be able to have retail sales without potential control of their given municipalities. The commissioner also noted that he was not against the medical use of cannabis.
“I thought cities controlled their cities? Not the State of Connecticut,” he said. “I’m going to be a lawyer to tell people they better come to ordinance meetings and council meetings. It’s a major change at Bristol and it’s happening very fast and I think we need to slow down.”
City officials have said Bristol’s current and only medical cannabis dispensary, TruLieve, will likely be grandfathered as a distributor of hybrid medical and recreational cannabis.
Commissioner Andrew Rasmussen-Tuller said recreational cannabis is legal statewide and residents will still buy it.
“Why not have them in Bristol but have them checked? Nobody wants to see one on every corner, but how can we do it in the most beneficial way for the city? ” he said. “I think that’s where the ordinances committee comes in and 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 the city, however, he thought it was important to balance the issue as already around 3,000 patients for around eight years had been buying medical cannabis in the city.
“There will be public hearings and a regular process and it will take a month or two to pass,” he said.