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Friday, October 19 News

Commission, residents debate medical marijuana

WESTPORT — The zoning commission is inching toward a decision on five applications for medical marijuana dispensaries.

“We know that each of you has heard many concerns raised again and again in the past hearings,” resident Daniel Xue said in the public comment section for the dispensary application brought by Shoreline Alternative Care at 833 Post Road, May 3.

Xue is among a group of residents who has attended several of the past public hearings on the dispensary applications to voice his opposition to the projects on the grounds a medical marijuana facility will have a damaging impact on the community.

Xue read several news articles about alleged safety incidents at medical and recreational dispensaries across the country. Many of Xue’s safety concerns about medical marijuana facilities were grounded in the fact that dispensaries often keep large sums of cash on hand because marijuana is illegal at the federal level and thus dispensaries are often forced to work outside the traditional banking system and primarily use cash for purchases.

“The combined issues of a huge pile of cash and the pot makes those facilities an easy target for criminals as a bad guy simply could not resist this as a temptation,” Xue said.

Residents spoke just as voraciously, and in near equal numbers, in favor of the application for 833 Post Road.

“I’ve been a Westport resident for 33 years. I’m a local business owners and I’m a grateful medical marijuana patient,” Robert Lewis said, adding, “Having struggled with Crohn’s disease all my life I can attest to the fact that the high quality medical marijuana I receive is a crucial and beneficial component of my treatment plan.”

Lewis said medical marijuana has helped stave off some of his worse Crohn’s and the Connecticut medical marijuana program is the most highly regulated medical marijuana program in the country and will be safe for Westport residents.

Both applications for dispensaries at 833 and 1460 Post Road East are within 1,000 feet of public buildings — a department of transportation salt and sand storage facility and a town sewage pump building respectively, which, per zoning regulations, disqualifies the locations.

A lawyers or Shoreline, which already owns an integrative pharmacy in town, proposed an amendment to change the definition of public building, arguing a public building should be a place where people regularly gather.

Another major concern among residents is that a medical marijuana facility will open the door for recreational marijuana facilities in the future should recreational marijuana become legal following the legalization of medical marijuana as has occurred in many other states.

When asked by commissioner Chip Stephens whether a medical marijuana dispensary would be a gateway for a recreational marijuana shop at the same point in the future, Bluepoint principal David Lipton, a Westport resident, said, “This is strictly a medical application. In fact, even in discussions with our landlord the same discussion came up and it is strictly a medical marijuana facility.”

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The applications for 833 and 1460 Post Road East will be decided at a later meeting of the P&Z. The next meeting of the commission is May 17.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1

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