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West Hartford Town Council Asks Town Manager to Recommend Local Regulations Regarding Cannabis

Marijuana plants. Courtesy of CTNewsJunkie.com (we-ha.com file photo)

At the Town Council meeting Tuesday night, West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor suspended the agenda to introduce a resolution asking the town manager to study and make recommendations regarding the sale and use of cannabis in the town.

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Town Council had a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, just hours after Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill legalizing the sale and use of recreational cannabis, and the process of determining what local regulations will be adopted will begin immediately.

The meeting’s agenda had already been published, but Mayor Shari Cantor introduced an item under suspension asking Town Manager Matt Hart and town staff to study and make recommendations regarding the safe and responsible adult use and sale of cannabis in West Hartford. The resolution was adopted unanimously by the Council.,

Cantor praised the governor for signing the legislation, Senate Bill 1201 AN ACT CONCERNING RESPONSIBLE AND EQUITABLE REGULATION OF ADULT-USE CANNABIS.

“The criminalization of cannabis has created a dangerous, unregulated market that has led to systematic discrimination, and I praise the General Assembly and Gov. Lamont for finally ending the injustice of cannabis prohibition,” Cantor said in a statement.

At the meeting, however, Cantor noted that this bill also brings challenges, and that’s why she felt it was important to quickly complete a study. “Education, health issues, those are things that are very important for us to focus on,” Cantor said at the Council meeting.

SB 1201 provides municipalities with authority to adopt local rules and regulations concerning a broad range of issues related to recreational cannabis, including but not limited to restricting zoning; charging retailers for certain public safety expenses; and establishing fines for smoking cannabis in outdoor sections of restaurants.

In addition, Section 84 of the bill states that any municipality with a population greater than 50,000 that regulates the use of cannabis “shall designate a place in the municipality in which public consumption of cannabis is permitted,” and that includes smoking of the use of electronic cannabis delivery systems.

Several sections of the bill take effect as soon as July 1, 2021, and Cantor said careful and proactive study of the potential impact is required.

“It is critical that, to the extent allowed under state law, West Hartford adopt local cannabis regulations that prioritize public health, public safety, social justice, and equity,” said Cantor.

“The Mayor and the Council are to be commended for their proactive approach to this issue,” Hart said. “Social equity, public safety, and public health are top priorities for the town. Town staff and I will review the issue in a comprehensive manner, consulting with our key stakeholders, to develop recommendations for the Council’s consideration.”

Corporation Counsel Dallas Dodge said while there is no timeframe for completing the study and recommendations, and portions of the legalization take place as of July 1, the regulatory process for licensing and retail sale will take several months or perhaps a year.

“I do not have a firm timeline yet but will endeavor to provide the Council with preliminary recommendations late this calendar year,” Hart told We-Ha.com.

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