Controversy over Medical Marijuana and Zoning

posted by Nicholas Vitti January 16, 2015

On May 31, 2012, Governor Malloy signed House Bill 5389 into law. The bill entitled, “An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana”, officially made Connecticut the seventeenth state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana. The majority of the Act became effective on October 1, 2012, but the rollout of grow facilities and dispensaries is not expected until the Department of Consumer Protection enacts regulations in 2013. Controversy lurks as businesses who wish to legally grow or dispense marijuana search for locations to set up shop.

The Legislature has legalized medical marijuana, but in doing so has not provided local governments with guidance on its implementation, specifically from a planning and zoning perspective. Undoubtedly, many municipalities will utilize their zoning power in order to restrict the marijuana businesses. Clearly, a municipality cannot prohibit what the legislature has made legal. Yet, restrictions could become prohibitions if the number of potential sites is extremely limited because of zoning.

More guidance is needed to fix the disconnect between the new state law and local land use regulation. Perhaps answers will come from the Department of Consumer Protection, new legislative initiatives, amendments to the current legislation or through litigation. Until then, municipalities are operating in an unknown environment with little to no direction. Stay tuned!

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