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Southington PZC takes on medical marijuana

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Planning and Zoning Commission members hope residents with concerns about medical marijuana will attend a public information session scheduled for Thursday.
Steve Kalkowski, chairman of the commission’s continuous improvement subcommittee, said he’s looking for thoughts on how Southington will zone the production, distribution and consumption of medical marijuana.
The General Assembly voted during the recent session to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Kalkowski said he’s received calls from residents and Youth Services Director Sue Saucier, who are concerned about how the law will be implemented locally.
Saucier said she plans to attend Thursday’s meeting. She was opposed to the state law and said now she’ll work to keep medical marijuana dispensaries and growers out of town if possible.
“If we can not have any dispensaries in Southington, that’s something I’d be in favor of,” Saucier said.
She said there are reports of growers in California selling to both legal dispensaries and the illegal market, something Saucier doesn’t want to see happen in Southington.
Legalizing medical marijuana could make young people more likely to try the drug, she said.
“Smoked marijuana isn’t medicine,” Saucier said. “The perception of harm or the perception of risk goes down” once it is legalized.
Kalkowski said he invited members of Southington’s legislative delegation to attend Thursday’s meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 75 Main St.
State Sen. Joe Markley (R-Southington) and state Rep. Bruce “Zeke” Zalaski (D-Southington) voted against the bill. They were unsure how much local control towns would have in zoning medical marijuana.
Zalaski and Markley said Youth Services and Southington’s Town Wide Effort to Promote Success opposed the bill.
“I think the town is smart to be proactive in figuring out what the possibilities are,” Markley said.
State Rep. Mary Mushinsky (D-Wallingford) said she supported the bill, which she said narrowly defined who would use medical marijuana. She said youth may use the argument that they should be allowed to use marijuana if it’s legal for some, but said that was just “an excuse.”
Mushinsky said she has constituents with diseases, including cancer, and medical marijuana eases their pain.
“They were real desperate for some help,” she said. “They feel better when they use it.”
Kalkowski said he hopes the subcommittee will recommend zoning regulations to the commission by mid-June. The subcommittee has recommended changes to the town’s zoning regulations on poultry and LED signs, and will consider the use of all-terrain vehicles and the zoning density of liquor stores.

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