Mothers Against Westport Dispensaries

Earlier this month, I posted a story about an upcoming Planning & Zoning Commission meeting. One agenda item: 2 applications for medical marijuana dispensaries, at the sites of the former Bertucci’s restaurant, and Blockbuster video store.

That story drew only 12 comments. Most were positive. A few were not. All were thoughtful and well-reasoned.

Similarly, a post last May about the P&Z’s upcoming meeting to discuss whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Westport drew all of 4 comments. Crickets.

Finally, however, opposition is brewing. A letter from “Concerned Westport mothers” is making its way around town, by email and on social media.

Full disclosure: I fully support medical marijuana. I have seen how much good it can do, for so many people. I find some of the arguments of “Concerned Westport mothers” to be tangential, unsupported, and perhaps a bit NIMBY.

However, this is “06880,” where all voices can be heard. So — in the interest of bringing this debate into the public square — I’m posting their letter.

Let the comments begin.

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Dear friends and neighbors:

We are a group of concerned Westport mothers.

We recently learned of several medicinal marijuana dispensary locations being proposed in Westport.  Two locations are currently being evaluated by the Planning & Zoning Commission. Both are highly visible, high traffic, large retail buildings located at 1505 Post Road East (currently DXL – Maple Avenue & Post Road East) and 833 Post Road East (formerly Bertucci’s restaurant – Post Road East & Long Lots Road).

The former Bertucci’s — site one of one of the proposed medical marijuana dispensaries. (Photo/Seth Schachter)

There will be a public hearing with the P&Z to discuss these locations on Thursday, March 15 (Town Hall room 203, 7 p.m.). We have spoken with P&Z and are confident they will approve these locations unless there is significant public opposition.

We banded together to raise public awareness of this situation in order to prevent the establishment of landmark retail marijuana locations in our town. Many of us believe in medicinal marijuana; however, all of us fail to see why “medicinal” dispensaries require large, prominent locations on the Post Road.

Very few people we have spoken with were aware of Westport’s recent dispensary zoning laws. Even fewer were aware of the retail locations being proposed. As a result, P&Z has received little if any opposition to date. If the P&Z commission does not hear any public opposition, they will allow these locations to operate.

We are fearful that having highly visible marijuana retailers will radically change the family nature of Westport. The size of the 2 proposed locations alone indicates the scale anticipated by the operators. The zoning laws in most of the surrounding towns do not accommodate marijuana dispensaries.

Westport’s P&Z voted unanimously in June to allow 2 dispensaries in our town (there are currently 9 in the entire state), and placed mild restrictions on where dispensaries may operate. Given the lack of zoning laws in the surrounding towns, it is fair to assume the majority of the traffic at Westport dispensaries will be from out-of-town patrons.

The former Blockbuster video store — now DXL – is the proposed site of the other dispensary.

It is naïve to believe that the operators chose these massive, high visibility, high traffic, high rent locations solely to provide medicinal marijuana to acutely ill patients. Those needs could obviously be met at significantly smaller locations with significantly less rent expense.

Medicinal patients know where to find medicinal dispensaries. Medicinal dispensaries do not require high visibility locations any more than cancer doctors do. We believe both operators chose prominent Post Road locations in anticipation of a day when medicinal or recreational marijuana is available to a much broader swath of the population. The marijuana industry is lobbying heavily in all state capitals to expand its recreational availability and Connecticut is exceptionally vulnerable given its fiscal condition.

We believe these prominent “medicinal” sites are simply placeholders until the current laws are relaxed – something we have seen play out in many other states. Imagine the traffic to the 2 locations if laws are relaxed and dispensaries are not zoned in the surrounding towns! Please act now if you do not want to wake up in a few years with a recreational mega-dispensary in your neighborhood or school district.

The letter includes the P&Z address (PandZ@westportct.gov), and asks to be CCed at CommonSenseWestport@gmail.com. It continues:

1505 Post Road East is barely outside of the 1000 foot zoning restriction from Long Lots Elementary School and shares a sidewalk with elementary school children who walk and bike to Long Lots each day.

Greens Farms Elementary School would be flanked on two sides by mega-dispensaries.

School buses on their way to and from Long Lots, Greens Farms, Bedford Middle School & Staples pass these locations each day. There is no question the signage and activity at each location will have an impact on curious young minds.

“Concerned Westport mothers” worry that students from Greens Farms and Long Lots Elementary Schools will be unduly influenced by medical marijuana dispensaries.

Ironically, the Westport Department of Human Services recently hosted an outside speaker, Dr. Ruth Potee, who outlined the correlation between exposure to recreational substances at a young age and the propensity for addiction down the road.

The 2 proposed addresses have approximately 18,000 square feet of retail space combined and are approximately 1.3 miles apart. For comparison, the dispensary billing itself as “the largest recreational marijuana store on the planet” is less than 16,000 square feet in Las Vegas. Does anyone believe that a family town of 26,000 people needs more marijuana square footage than the largest 24-hour, drive-thru dispensary in Las Vegas?

Dispensaries cannot accept credit cards and do not have access to bank accounts at Fed-regulated banks as their income is derived from activities in violation of federal law. Therefore they are all-cash businesses without the ability to deposit the cash in a bank, increasing the security challanges.

Regarding the Maple Avenue location, there are numerous child-focused businesses in the immediate area, including Willows Pediatric Group (one of the largest pediatric groups in the area /state); Zaniac (daycare and tutoring facility); Kidville (a preschool play gym); Sharkey’s (children’s hair salon), and Westport Music Center.

Sharkey’s is one of several “child-focused businesses” near the site of a proposed medical marijuana dispsensary.

There is a reason P&Z placed restrictions regarding where dispensaries may operate. Presumably the reason is to minimize the exposure that the public and especially the children of our town will have to the dispensaries. Given the prominence of these locations, we struggle to see how these locations are within the spirit of the zoning laws.

It is unfortunate that our town’s officials have gotten us so far along in this process without widespread public knowledge. Our elected officials are making decisions now that have significant potential future consequences. It is not too late to act.

We encourage you to attend the P&Z hearing. We need to represent how we view our town and preserve its existing character. The only way to convince the majority of the P&Z Commission members is by writing to the P&Z Commission and voicing our concerns at the meeting.

Lastly, it is important for us to note that we truly sympathize with severely ill patients in Westport who do not wish to travel 15 miles to Milford for medicinal marijuana. However, the operators of these locations are clearly not prioritizing the medicinal needs of Westport patients.

Genuine medicinal needs could be met on an entirely different scale than what is being proposed. If the sites were small, discreet locations off the beaten path, we would not feel compelled to take action. However, the way we see it, these operators are taking advantage of our town’s zoning laws and investing in what they hope will be a gold mine down the road – at the expense of our town’s character.

52 responses to “Mothers Against Westport Dispensaries

  1. Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

    I’ll make the same comment I made previously… Do exactly what any good Westporter has done for decades when something not acceptable to their sensitivities is proposed in town… kick it over the border to Norwalk. At least your kids will need to drive their 16th birthday Bemmers across town lines to be horribly influenced.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      Bruce, we’ve been away too long. Norwalk is the new Westport.

  2. Jill Greenberg

    Well, Dan,
    Here is my response to the P&Z proposal:
    In a nut shell, to do it right, and provide a dispensary to those who genuine will benefit we need to connect our decision to the research not just the money making benefits (which should be our last consideration)
    DEAR P&Z, and others:
    I notice there is an upcoming meeting to discuss medical marijuana dispensaries in town. Unfortunately , I may be unable to attend because of work obligations, so I am sharing my thoughts below:

    What do you know about medical marijuana? Do you know how the medical marijuana industry has affected towns in other states? Have you given research-based consideration to the risks and the risk management involved?

    As a psychologist here is what I know and what I think:
    Medical marijuana is a substance that can greatly reduce pain and allow specific individuals for whom research has shown its efficacy, lead independent lives.
    Do we know how many people that might truly be? How many physicians are prescribing? and for what medical problems? This is important to know because the answer to these questions of demographics can inform you as to the number of dispensaries needed in a given community. Without this information one cannot make an informed decision about what our community needs.

    I know that whenever marijuana is legalized the potency of the marijuana increases. Some recent research shows that increased potency increases the likelihood of dependency on a subset of the population. Potency increases are tied to industry financial ambition, in much the same way as tobacco industry developed products in the past.
    What are the state regulations about dispensing marijuana? Are they stringent enough to protect secondary sales, increased non medical usage? Are they stringent enough to disallow dispensing/selling tobacco products? Are medical marijuana products packaged as entertainment or as medicine? My medicine comes in a plain container or box, nothing to specifically entice me to buy or use it. It’s medicine.

    If a facility is merely a place to dispense medical marijuana, how big a facility is really needed? What are the risks of affiliating a medical marjuana dispensary with a “spa” or “wellness center”, words that have quite different connotations?
    What does the research tell us about the sequelae of marijuana legalization in Colorado? Though, of course this is recreational use, there are important relationships? Do you know them? What research have you read? Have you spoken with researchers in the field who are not in the marijuana business? Because of the snazzy packaging and the enticing marketing, there have been many serious accidental ingestions among minors. And where there is legalized medical marijuana, there is an increase in overall marijuana usage. DWI accidents increased among teens in Colorado. The younger the individual is when s/he starts using marijuana the greater the liklihood of addiction, not to mention alteration in brain development and functioning. Are you ready to monitor where and how medical marijuana is used in our town?

    I would think the number of adults in need of medical marijuana would be a relatively stable number. If one is sincerely interested in helping that small group of adults, then before opening a dispensary in our community, I strongly believe a genuine needs assessment should be done, state data about physician prescriptions is essential, and the facility should be properly supervised, managed, and guarded per most recent research. If such information is unavailable, if physicians are not regulated as they would be for other controlled substances why would you want this business here?

    Here is what I expect from my elected officials:
    Despite the lucrative nature of the marijuana industry, despite the town’s current business woes, and despite the lackluster business growth in our town, as compared to neighboring towns, decisions concerning this new industry should be made with deep knowledge, a good sense of the big picture based on solid research-based evidence. Development of the industry for medical purposes, should reflect the genuine intention of the facility through its size, and marketing strategies.

    In conclusion, if you are not prepared to answer the above questions with concrete information that reflects a deep understanding of the affects of opening medical marijuana sites and specific strategies for protecting other vulnerable popluations from incidious marketing, regardless of the town’s need for commerce, we are not ready for one, let alone two dispensaries in Westport.

    I have included a few respected links for your perusal.
    Regards,
    Jill Greenberg, Ph.D.
    7 Strathmore Lane
    Westport CT

    http://www.uclamedicalmarijuanaresearch.com/node/3

    http://www.uclamedicalmarijuanaresearch.com/node/33
    Places with More Marijuana Dispensaries Have More Marijuana-Related Hospitalizations: PITTSBURGH, Aug. 10, 2015 – People who live in areas of California with a higher density of marijuana dispensaries experience a greater number of hospitalizations involving marijuana abuse and dependence, a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health analysis discovered.

    http://www.uclamedicalmarijuanaresearch.com/node/30:
    Regulating marijuana delivery services — not just dispensaries — could help address recreational use
    A key finding from the study was that people in cities with greater availability of medical marijuana — as measured by the density of dispensaries and delivery services — reported more current marijuana use and more frequent use

    https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2016/05/study-links-medical-marijuana-dispensaries-to-reduced-mortality-opioid-overdose
    Study Links Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Reduced Mortality From Opioid Overdose
    A Downside of Availability

    Using data from the TEDS and the Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the researchers found that LMDs were also associated with higher:

    Recreational marijuana use by adults
    Treatment admissions for marijuana use and dependence among adults and youth
    Potency of illegal marijuana
    Dr. Pacula explains the last finding: “The marijuana available in dispensaries can have THC [tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana] content well above 20 percent—even higher in the concentrates—as opposed to the 3 percent to 5 percent that is typical of the wild plant.” To compete, illegal marijuana dealers have apparently begun to increase the THC content of their products. This development is troubling, Dr. Pacula says, because “Higher potency may result in increased impairment, with potential implications for drugged driving and drug-induced psychoses

  3. Valerie Port

    Where were these people protesting all of the liquor stores close to the schools? Alcohol is a far worse drug than medical marijuana or even recreational marijuana. It is proven that marijuana is not addicticting, you can’t say that about alcohol. How about all of the AA meetings these people don’t oppose, half of which the attendees fall off the wagon and often attend the meeting intoxicated. These meetings are at churches and schools and around children.
    And now look in your own medicine cabinets, how many of you are stashing your opioids, just ready for the hands of your children to reach out and grab and pop a pill just like mommy or daddy because “they have a headache”. Another addictive and far more serious drug than marijuana, yet it is legal. Shall we ban pharmacies from Westport too?
    Dispensaries take debit cards, the majority of people who use the facility do not pay in cash.
    Let’s have conversations with our children about medicine and alternative medicine. Discussing with our children to not take the cute red/blue/green pill that looks like candy at their playdate’s house is just as important as discussing alcohol and marijuana consumption.
    The times are changing and thankfully the medical community has found ways to treat sickness with natural substances instead of addictive pharmaceuticals. Let’s be the Westport we all moved here for, being progressive and at the forefront of intelligent change.

  4. Dick Lowenstein

    Would someone please tell me why the prescription dispensation of marijuana requires such a large facility. Is it different that selling other prescription drugs like Oxycontin or Ambien? That is what puzzles me.

  5. Lucy Weberling

    I would have to agree that , being large, even over-large, and obvious to children and school activities, is a drawback to having these 2 dispensaries in the proposed locations. They will bring in much traffic to an already crowded area, and many shoppers from out of town. Westport has changed since I grew up there: mostly chain stores rather than locally owned shops, hugely trafficked areas, mostly high end stores, etc. I would hate to see it be even more so.

  6. David J. Loffredo

    Mothers Against Vaping would be a better use of your time since all the schools are filled with kids doing this right now (well not today because schools are closed – so they’re probably doing it under your own roofs). Nicotine is addictive and will lead to a life long struggle trying to break from it, Marijuana is not, and once the initial fascination is over it’s actually a pretty un-nattractive drug that leads to mostly lazy, anti-social behaviors.

    You are correct though, these sites have nothing to do with the “medical” part of our marijuana journey, the State of CT is desperate for tax revenue and recreational pot will be on the ballot sooner rather than later.

  7. India V Penney

    I’ve done the research. Let’s be very clear about a few things.
    1) These dispensaries are not like methadone clinics where “junkies” are lining up outside to get their fix. Nor are they run by drug dealers who dole out a cheap high.
    Medical marijuana dispensaries are large, serene, comforting clinics where people with terminal illnesses – severe chronic pain – debilitating loss of appetite – incipient blindness – seizures – etc. can try to find some relief.

    2) Medical marijuana dispensaries are large because they include:
    A) a large waiting room (necessary particularly considering how few of these there are in the entire state)
    B) offices for pharmacists and doctors on staff and on site
    C) offices for administration staff
    D) patient intake rooms
    E) patient counseling rooms
    F) rooms for other modalities like yoga, energy healing, massage, reiki, etc.

    3) The process to receive medical marijuana is similar to getting a prescription for any other drug. You are seen and evaluated by a medical doctor and, if the doctor believes you can benefit from medical marijuana, you are issued a certificate or card that is valid for one year only.

    4) The 7 dispensaries that already exist in Connecticut do not have the word “marijuana” in their names … so it isn’t at all obvious to a passerby what type of facility it is. They are considered Wellness Centers, Compassionate Care, Alternative Care, etc. [Compare this with the prominent use of the words “liquor” and “drugs” on liquor stores and pharmacies.]

    5) The cash vs. credit cards issue is a complicated one. While 29 STATES in the U.S. – and Washington D.C. – legally allow the dispensing and use of medical marijuana, it is still a FEDERAL crime. Thus, banks have been wary of allowing the dispensaries to open bank accounts. HOWEVER: the federal government has issued assurances that banks would not be liable in any way for providing medical marijuana dispensaries with bank accounts. SO: more and more banks are doing just that and soon credit cards will be accepted in all of them.

    6) Dispensaries are not retail stores. They’re clinics.

    This is not some back alley operation of addictive street drugs that will be populated by unsavory characters. The people parking in these lots will be your neighbors … and perhaps even your own family.

    Medical marijuana provides much needed relief for the muscle cramps of those with Multiple Sclerosis … to stimulate the appetite of chemo patients who can’t eat and are wasting away just when they need their strength the most … to relieve the nausea and vomiting of those same chemo patients … to quell the burning nerve pain of people with diabetes, AIDS, and spinal cord injuries … to relieve seizures in epileptic children … to reduce the needs for surgery of Crohn’s Disease patients … and so on.

    I don’t know how to add a photo to this comment … maybe Dan Woog can help me with that. But if you were to see the other, existing, facilities in Connecticut — you’ll see why they’re large, and that they’re non-threatening.

  8. India V Penney

    I would just like to add one more thought:
    Marijuana does not kill.
    Alcohol and opioids do.
    The threats to our children are the latter.
    With all respect, I think the fears of some are misplaced.
    But their voices will be the loudest. I encourage everyone who has no problem with medical marijuana dispensaries to attend that P&Z meeting on Thursday March 15th.
    I won’t be there. I’ll be recovering from major surgery two days earlier.
    I will, however, send a letter.

  9. Michael Calise

    The P & Z can not be held responsible for the wide ranging questions above. This is an approved use by the State of Connecticut and all of these questions have already been addressed ( this does not mean we should not be interested and inquisitive) The P & Z to their credit placed a well publicized moratorium on the installation of these dispensaries and held numerous public meetings over the course of the last year. In fact during this process they extended the moratorium to have the time to be certain they got it right. I believe these proposed dispensaries are in the 3,500 sq. ft. range. It is my understanding that the proposed Bertucci’s location is a partial occupancy. This has been a long and open discussion on the part of the P & Z. Rather than acting in a reactionary manner they have worked diligently to develop a viable solution. There is little reason to ask them to chew over decisions made by enabling authorities but rather to inform and support them in their efforts to insure that we adhere to the basic tenants of our Zoning Regulations concerning the health and safety of all Westport residents.

  10. I’m not at all against the dispensary of medical marijuana but I agree that the size and location (and 2 really?) suggest that there will be competition in the sales of paraphernalia- papers, pipes, etc that can make for the negative attraction being discussed

  11. Richard Fogel

    The times are a changing

  12. Please excuse me if this comment appears more than once. I’m having some technical issues this morning.

    I found a copy of this letter on my car windshield at Greens Farms train station the other night. I was surprised and frankly disappointed at its contents. Disappointed because it is long on hyperbole and emotion but short on logic, an understanding of how dispensaries operate, and most importantly, lacks genuine concern for our neighbors who are suffering from debilitating conditions and could benefit from better access to medical marijuana.

    Our Westport neighbors with medical marijuana prescriptions are currently forced to travel to Milford, easily an hour-long round trip. This places an undue burden on those suffering from cancer, chronic pain, PTSD, HIV, Parkinson’s Disease, epilepsy and other debilitating diseases approved for medical marijuana prescriptions by the state. This is unnecessary and unfair. Patients who are suffering from state-approved conditions deserve the same reasonable access to legal, prescription medical marijuana as they do to more traditional prescription medicines.

    Effective town policy is fostered through thoughtful consideration of the facts and through honest debate. Misinformation, hyperbole, and in particular, dog whistle politics warning of a majority of “out-of-town patrons”, have no place in our town or this debate.

    • Dina Carlson

      Have any of you ever parked infront of one of the existing dispensaries? Why don’t you do that for about 20 minutes and just take a look at the traffic going in and out of these places? Then come back and post. I know several people that have medical marijuana prescriptions and don’t need them. It is very easy to get, you just say you’re depressed and have some anxiety and there you go. So the fact is not everyone going in and out of these places medically needs it, that’s just the reality. Again, just go spend 20 minutes in front of one of the existing dispensaries so you can get an idea of the people that will be in our backyards. They sell cookies, brownies and all kinds of special treats. This dispensary would be 10 steps away from my house, it does not belong in a residential neighborhood and the post road here backs up to a lot of homes. I would bet the sale of those homes would significantly be affected.

  13. Toni Simonetti

    I’m no expert, but fwiw…

    I believe Connecticut state laws regarding medical marijuana are among the most stringent, including: specific medical conditions allowed for a card and annual requirements for renewals; number of dispensaries being allowed; security of the facilities; access to the facilities; labeling of the product and it’s chemical attributes; amounts allows to be dispensed; cultivation of the product; regulation of owners/operators and their licensed pharmacists; marketing and advertising (ie ‘marijuana’ is not allowed in signage or ads, etc); even the layout of the dispensary facility. I believe CT has created very reasonable and well thought out regulations for medical marijuana… and I expect the same should recreational marijuana come to our state.

    I expect our town P&Z will be thoughtful in their decisions about these proposed sites, and I highly doubt the stTe will approve two applications in one town.

    By the way, I am far more concerned with the risk associated with dui drivers coming out of the many many neighborhood places that serve unlimited amounts of alcoholic beverages all day and night to far more people than would be coming out of a medical marijuana facility (where consumption is NOT) allowed).

  14. I agree with this well-reasoned article in its entirety, Medical marijuana can be dispensed discretely and does not require high-visibility distribution sites. It’s my opinion that P&Z should block these proposed openings. Thanks for posting the letter, Dan, despite the fact that you disagree with it.

  15. How does having visible marijuana retailers “radically change the family nature of Westport”? What a ludicrous statement. The locations are on the Post Rd because that is in reality the only place in town where commercial services are permitted or appropriate. Visibility to the “curious young minds” will reduce the taboo of marijuana, which does more to attract young people than anything else. I also think your all-cash statement is factually inaccurate, as many dispensaries accept debit cards. I for one fully support the dispensaries coming to Westport, and think it will be great for our town and the people that so desperately need relief.

  16. Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

    The best comment of all was made last month when someone said ‘I think that the weed should be sold in the Staples Parking lot like it always has been’ I would only add the beach and Big Top to his list and we are all good to go…

  17. Rebeca Wolin

    I work around the corner from a dispensary in the Berkshires. If I didn’t read in the paper that it was a dispensary I would never know. I certainly do not feel unsafe for me or my children. It is a stand alone building – and from what I read if you do not already have a medical marijuana card you can not get in. The same is true in CT. They have great security systems. They are no danger to the community and I have not seen any uptick in unsavory people in the area.
    Some of the arguments stated in the letter from the ‘concerned mom’ – was similar to the arguments made when Good will moved down the post road to their new home. Area residents and businesses were going to be in danger because of the people that shop at goodwill. What a joke that was. I would like to know how a child getting their hair cut with their parent there will be in danger because someone is filing a prescription at a dispensary close by? i would be more concerned that a drunk driver would crash into the window of that store that from someone filing a legal prescription at the dispensary.

  18. Caryl Beatus

    I NOW FEEL WELL INFORMED OF THE PROS AND CONS. I AGREE THAT THE ENORMOUS SIZE AND VISIBILITY OF A DISPENSARY SEEMS OUT OF LINE. ALSO I THINK ONE SUCH DISPENSARY SHOULD BE SUFFICIENT . DAN, THANKS FOR RAISING THE ISSUE.

  19. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    I don’t want to come off like a Puritan, because since there is proof that medical marijuana is effective when all else has failed, then I’m all for it. But I do think it should be as tightly controlled as possible and confined to people with a valid medical need. We don’t need another mainstream drug. This country is FUBAR because everything is out of control for the middle and poverty classes mostly IMHO because shit runs downhill and there’s a lot of shit coming out of the 1%, big business and big government..People are looking for anything to escape reality whether its gambling, drugs, sexual harassment or unsafe sex. The government is a control freak when it comes to taxation and social engineering but if they can make a buck off it, like casinos, then let the good times roll (for them). We used to fly to Colorado when we wanted to get Coors before it went national and the wealthy can afford a weekly commute for recreational pot. The poor and the beleaguered middle class need to focus on only doing what will improve their situation and I don’t believe that “opiates of the masses” like pot, gambling, etc. will do anything but undermine that. Remember that quote from The Godfather about keeping drugs isolated to minorities because “they have no souls, anyway.” I’m in Ohio where these problems are much more serious than Westport, once the horse has left the barn its pretty much impossible to get it corralled.

  20. I think P&Z can come to a common sense solution here. Dan’s original post showed the map with 1277 registered patients in Fairfield county. I cannot see how that requires 2 large dispensaries in Westport (there are currently 9 in the entire state). Let the applicants find an appropriate size and location to serve our community, similar to the dispensary in Milford which operates out of medical offices that are approximately 2,500 square feet.

  21. Oh, please. This sounds like 1967. Or maybe 1937. Try a quick search for “Westport CT liquor stores” and take a look at the map that pops up. “Family Nature”. Sure. “Business and traffic from out of town” . Plus ca change . . .

  22. When my kid was 9, I was concerned she might start smokin cigarettes — a terrible addiction and hard to stop. As her father smoked — unable to stop — I knew the satatistics where 50% in favor of her picking up the habit.

    I offered her $1,000 if she made it thru high school w/o ever smoking a cigarette. As a commissioned sales rep, I knew the power of a delicious carrot. Everyone thought I was crazy; and she bragged to everyone of her friends how crazy her mother was — but, ya know, the kid never smoked a cigarette — or a dubie/joint/etc.

    Whenever horrors/dangers are lurking around, parents have to figure out how to raise a kid in any place — entitled or subpar. It certainly doesn’t turn out well every time because lots of influences are at work, but parents must try to deal with drug use issues specificlly geared to the personality of their child in their environment. This leaving everything to the school or the community is not enough.

  23. I am happy for those with discomfort from chronic illness that will now have more convenient access to ease that discomfort. Not sure how anybody could be against that…and it’s perfectly legal in our state.

  24. Thomas Quealy

    Maybe we could put it in the magical area of town that isn’t “in a residential area” or “a busy area like the post road” – you know the place. Same place everyone thinks low income housing is supposed to be built.

    I challenge these concerned people to name a place they would feel comfortable with it being located. Until they can I think they should remove their “sympathy” paragraph. Meanwhile lets keep dishing out the oxy from every pharmacy in town – your kid can pick up some candy while you wait.

  25. I hope that the activities of the Mothers Against Westport Dispensaries will at last result in deep and wide-ranging input from all corners of the town. If that does happen, it will be welcome if somewhat overdue.

    I was one of the 12 contributors to Dan’s most recent post on this subject and I would like to reiterate the position I took a few days ago which still seems apposite in this post:

    “I served on the Westport P & Z Commission between 2013-2017.

    Shortly after joining the Commission, I attended the first meeting of the P & Z Sub-Committee, set up to review the best way to design and implement regulations related to medicinal marijuana, fully expecting to see many Westporters attend and pitch in their thoughts and comments. 4 people were present and 3 of those were P & Z Commissioners (Chip Stephens, Chair, Jack Whittle, Vice-Chair, and me, the then newbie). I believe that this was the pattern for most if not all succeeding meetings (which I did not attend).

    I sat on two applications heard by the Commission related to this issue. The attendees on both occasions were almost entirely “stakeholders”. Residents of the town were mostly conspicuous by their absence.

    I do not know whether this absence was evidence of indifference or apathy, or something else. It was certainly surprising to me.

    On the broader issue of whether the town should be host to one or more dispensaries, I feel that much of the adverse reaction I have heard and seen is based on emotion rather than logic.

    Marijuana is a controlled substance. Prescription opioids are controlled substances. Both marijuana and opioids can have negative effects, which is why they are, or have been, controlled substances. In my mind there is no logical difference between a marijuana dispensary and any pharmacy in its dispensary capacity. Both dispense controlled substances, which cannot lawfully be obtained without a prescription (in states that do not allow recreational marijuana, as here in CT). Both have to have secure locations for those controlled substances. Both have to have procedures in place to ensure that controlled substances are supplied only to those in possession of a prescription. Based on information provided to the Commission at one of the applications, marijuana dispensaries can bank their money in the usual way so long as their bank is a state bank. Assuming that is the case, there are no additional security measures that marijuana dispensaries have to take with regard to the safely of cash receipts. Notwithstanding that we have had pharmacies dispensing controlled substances in accordance with laws and regulations, for many years, we have a serious opioid addiction issue in this country. I do not believe that the risk of similar adverse consequences arising from locating one or more marijuana dispensaries in Westport or anywhere else is any greater than for ordinary pharmacies dispensing controlled substances. Conversely, for those Westport residents who need to fill lawful marijuana prescriptions, the absence of a local dispensary can be problematic.

    If I was sitting on the Commission now, faced with this question, I would approach the issue from what I consider to be this logical perspective.

    However, the wider point here, in my opinion, is that this is an important issue and I truly hope that town residents will turn up and participate so that the Commission can be as fully informed as possible when rendering its decision.”

    The only thing I might add is that, in my experience, the Commission does always have to be mindful of, or anticipate, the future plans and intentions of all applicants that are seeking an affirmative decision on one application that could open the door to unintended consequences in future applications. In this case, I see that the fear expressed is that these dispensaries would be poised to become general retailers in the event that CT legalizes recreational marijuana. I offer no view on that one way or the other but I will say that the Commission has the ability to restrict any permission granted so as to significantly dilute any unintended or undesirable consequences.

    One thing is certain however, the Commission has to take account of all views presented to it and so I hope that the meetings will be well attended or at least that residents will email their comments and concerns to the Commission. That would be a welcome departure from the way this issue has been addressed by town residents over the past 4 years or so.

  26. I moved to Westport when I was 12 years old in 1966. My new friends were already drinking Mom and Dad’s booze, sneaking cigarettes and smoking pot…Kids are going to experiment, nothing new there. Having dispensaries is not going to turn these kids into addicts. It’s not like the school bus is going to drop them off there, they could not walk in the door anyway, being underage…
    Tobacco and alcohol are legal, yet much more harmful. I have seen how marijuana has helped many critically ill people cope with their illnesses. Why force folks who are already not feeling well to have to travel long distances to get whatever will improve their way of life and give them comfort.
    It would not be legal in all the states it is, if it were as awful and terrible as these folks are making it out to be.
    I agree with India…Just my 2 cents…

  27. The comments on both sides of the argument are solid. I hope a sensible balance is found. We recently returned from a Colorado ski trip where we saw a number of dispensaries (recreational is legal there since 2014). They were small shops mixed in with other retail stores. Ironically, one dispensary was located near a small Tesla showroom which incredibly would be illegal in Connecticut. In 2017, marijuana sales at the dispensaries in the Colorado town surpassed total liquor sales.

  28. Lisa Hofmeister

    I think it would be interesting to see the ages of the commentators and the ages of their children (if they have any) to see if there is any trend of age/stage of life and opinion of pro vs. con. While I do see both sides, one thought I have (I have young children) is we need to look at potential future families moving to the suburbs. Would those moving from the city, chose another Fairfield town because of a dispensary? With any P&Z decision, I think they need to consider those who didn’t grow up here and how we are going to keep young families choosing Westport over Darien, New Canaan, etc….

  29. ..these are medical dispensories — not our high school where any kid can get anything if they are so inclined. You equate a decline in the value of homes here to the ability of sick people to have access to their medication of choice — I think that would enhance the desireability of the town. The biggest indicater of how kids turn out is the expectation of the parents. Again, not always, but the best shot they have.

  30. Phillip Perri

    “Nicotine is addictive and will lead to a life long struggle trying to break from it, Marijuana is not, and once the initial fascination is over it’s actually a pretty un-nattractive drug that leads to mostly lazy, anti-social behaviors.” Yes, that’s just what we want from the next generation running the country. Who is kidding who? This is not about medicinal marijuana (“MM”) for seriously ill patients. My doctor has samples of every medicine known to mankind at his office. Why can’t doctors that tend to seriously ill patients dispense MM at the office for the convenience of the patient? Everyone winks at the thought of MM….”oh, Doc my aching back.” Here’s a card, pay at the receptionist. Please stop pretending. casinos, alcohol, MM…..its about money, period, at any and all cost, including human cost. Marijuana use has been tied to sterility in men, it is harmful to the lungs (more tar than cigarettes). But the worst is its affect long term on teenagers and young adults. It robs a still developing mind of the motivation to excel, it fosters laziness, malaise and a narrowing of vision to a short horizon. In short it robs kids of their future. Yes, it is a parent’s responsibility to steer their kids in the right direction, but how can you do that when everything that kid sees and hears seems to say that no, its actually alright, everyone’s doing it so it must not be so bad. The mindset of “well, its not as bad as alcohol” is absurd. Because society dropped the ball on alcohol we should open Pandora’s box to every vice being more accessible to our children. Not addictive? That’s what they said about cigarettes until the tobacco companies raised the nicotine content in cigarettes to insidiously make people addicted……sound familiar? “legal marijuana has higher potency”. Of course these “dispensaries” are staking a claim in advance of recreational use being legalized…….anyone who thinks otherwise is very misinformed and kidding themselves. It’s about money, as most things are. Do you realize that if CT banned all gambling activity, i.e. Lotto, Vegas nights, etc. the State could legally outlaw the establishment of casinos in CT, regardless of any Indian land claims? But they won’t……money. Forget human cost, forget that the most vulnerable among us are the most impacted by these issues, forget the systematic denigration of our society. Cash the checks and forget it.

    Oh, yeah, and we all tell our parents we never did any of the stuff we actually did…..its what kids do, even as adults.

  31. Virginia Tienken

    My question was and is why do we need medical dispensaries at all. Why can’t prescriptions for medical marijuana be handled the same as any prescription for a seriously ill patient?

    • Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

      I tend to agree with that. Here in Italy medical pot is controlled and available from the pharmacy. I am sure it is all about big pharma and MONEY have nothing to do with what could be a simple solution.

    • India V Penney

      That’s a very good question Virginia and here is, at least in part, the answer.

      A doctor cannot prescribe medical marijuana. Prescribing it is against federal law. It can only be “dispensed” in states that have legalized that ability, and the rules for dispensing are quite strict.

      For one thing, you must see a doctor or other practitioner who is registered with the Commission. Many CT doctors have done that. In addition …
      The dispensaries that I’ve researched have staff doctors who meet with the patients, evaluate their illness and their need for medical marijuana. If they feel that patient qualifies, they can issue a card or certificate that allows the patient to purchase what they need in the dispensary. (This is another reason why these dispensaries are “large”. They house offices, examination rooms, etc. – just like any clinic.)

      Even more rules: There is a limit to how much medical marijuana a patient can possess at any given time. Also, there are different methods of delivering the medical marijuana to a patient’s system. Many patients can’t smoke a marijuana cigarette b/c of their illness … others can’t ingest because of their illness … etc. There are about half a dozen methods and it has to be determined which is best for the individual patient because each delivery system – and each different strain of plant – has different effects (just like different dosages of prescription medications have different effects).

      So, medical marijuana is becoming a specialty, just like everything else. The average PCPs (primary care physicians) are going to find it easier to send their patients to specialists who know all the laws and the particulars of which strain and which delivery system is best.

  32. India V Penney

    I just read a statistic in the New York Times this morning that I thought would be pertinent to this discussion.
    In discussing the issue of opioid use, the article stated that in 2016 there were 64,000 fatal overdoses.

    That got me thinking. A little research turned up these other, averaged and rounded out, statistics:
    400,000 tobacco related deaths per year
    50,000 deaths by alcohol poisoning per year
    0 deaths by marijuana use or overuse per year

  33. Catherine Gardiner

    I have no objection to medicinal marijuana not do I have an objection to it being dispensed in Westport. However, I don’t understand why it requires it’s own stand alone facility? Could it not be dispensed by a pharmacist in a pharmacy like every other prescription drug? Could an existing pharmacy in town dispense it?

  34. carrington k birnie

    I have read the comments with interest as I am a user of medical cannabis. I lived in Westport from 1953 to 2016, when I moved up to Portland Me. I had been on Opioids due to chronic back pain since 1999, and then added neck pain 7 years later. All under a pain management doctor’s care. From 80mgs. oxycontin 3xdaily down to 60mgs 3xdaily until I said I wanted off them entirely. She would not refer me to a med. cannabis doctor (didn’t believe in them), wanted me to go on methadone for pain, but I was determined to wean off, and slowly began process. 1 year later my body was in a lot more pain but I was down to 7.5mg percocets 3xdaily, when I left Westport, and moved. I found pain management docs. who helped me with rest of weaning, referred me to a med. canna. doc., who examined me, issued my card ($250.00 a year), and sent me to my “Wellness Connection” clinic, an unobtrusive building off a main street in Portland, where I’ve been going ever since. Without that card, and my I.D., I can not go in. I am not allowed to bring anyone in with me. I’m 67, have serious chronic pain, see all kinds of suffering human beings in the clinic, some young, some old, never children, never seen a problem with anyone (and just for the hell of it, Maine is an open-carry state, so that guy or woman next to me could be packing)… I think the site right off the connector is probably the best if it comes down to a compromise with the nay sayers… But for now they remain a viable and important alternative for people suffering from many different medical conditions to find solutions to dealing with their symptoms without having to resort to opioids, or for those not having success dealing with those symptoms any other way at all.

  35. Caryl Beatus

    THE COMMENTS BY THE LADY IN MAINE ARE MORE THAN APPROPRIATE TO OUR WESTPORT PROBLEM. I THINK IT SHOULD BE FORWARDED TO THE POWERS THAT BE WITHOUT DELAY

  36. Phillip Perri

    Yes, the person from Maine makes a very good point, although not the one intended. ” an unobtrusive building off a main street in Portland”. Yes, that certainly describes the DXL building or the old Bertucci’s. Medical pot should be legalized by the federal government so it can be controlled just like any other dangerous drug and the doctors prescribing it should be strictly monitored so CT doesn’t become like every other state where it is “legal” and have doctors filling their pockets by selling cards like candy for back aches and headaches. Say all you want and kid yourselves all you want but you don’t have to die to be a casualty of marijuana, nor gambling, nor alcoholism. And just because society has turned a blind eye towards other vices regardless of the human cost for monetary gain, that shouldn’t be used as a justification to add another. Remember, when the fallout from all these addictive substances hit the government dole, disability and welfare roles we all bear the cost. Bottom line, alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs (including marijuana) and some prescription drugs, change the brain chemistry. With continues use, permanently, especially in the still forming brains of our under 25 year olds. Anyone that disputes that is kidding themselves and just wrong. Any further signals to our children that marijuana is OK or “not as bad as my parents say it is” is dangerous. This is the reason, even with the full court press on sending the message that cigarettes are dangerous, kids are still trying and getting addicted to smoking. There are still conflicting messages on cigarettes in media and society. Same with alcohol. Kids, by nature, will be tempted to try anything once but we are adding fuel to the fire by sending conflicting messages. Once legalized for recreational use and just as available as alcohol to everyone, including minors, it is only a matter of time before we see all the same types of issues now faced with alcohol, become linked to pot use. As a great majority of the next generations “tune up and tune out” society will be wondering what happened. Forget it, fill your pockets with blood money and hope your time ends before the fallout hits.

  37. Elaine Marino

    I have no familiarity with this issue, and thus have been reading some of the the various links and articles provided by Dan’s readers. Thank you, Dan, for highlighting this issue in your blog.

    My general sentiment is that if medical marijuana is able to benefit those with chronic illness/chronic pain, etc., these persons should have access to it.

    However, what concerns me are the apparent heightened security measures typically provided at a medical marijuana dispensary. I looked at the website for Prime Wellness of CT and read the executive biographies:

    http://primewellnessofct.com/about-us/
    Thomas Nicholas, Founder/CEO
    Al Domeika, Dispensary Manager/Pharmacist
    Dean Marino, Head of Security

    I expected to see CEO and Manager/Pharmacist – but Head of Security? A company that highlights its commitment to security in such a manner must have a good reason to do so. I don’t expect CVS Pharmacy to provide heightened security, so why would a 20-person medical marijuana dispensary in South Windsor, CT highlight its commitment to security?

  38. Michael Guadarrama (Westport)

    I am surprised by how P&Z instituted their ordinance to allow one, worse yet, two medical marijuana facilities in Westport. Reportedly, Westport has ~200 patients who may partake in facilities designed to service multiples of those numbers – one must wonder what the applicants expect to happen in the future.

    Introducing a power plant, or a new water tower, or a gun store, or a medical marijuana facility(s) is not equivalent to opening a new *general* retail business. These non-typical businesses are new to Westport and need to be thought through carefully. More importantly, the entire community MUST be brought in early, not when it is too late, to understand and consent. The long-term implications for Westport will be significant.

    I attended the hearing last night. It was quite clear the P&Z commission was not prepared with what questions to ask and what concerns to investigate. They were unaware of the basic facts of traffic, security, property value impact, challenges from nearby businesses, and, most importantly, child safety issues. They came across defensive. Although, they thanked the public for informing them of these aspects. What would have happened if Westport had not?

    I found the behavior of the 1505 Post Rd applicant (near Long Lots & Greens Farms Elementary schools) telling. That applicant clearly intends to use P&Z’s naivety to force the opening of this facility regardless of public concerns. That likely will be the modus operandi from future dispensary applicants – it is their only tactic to open a business designed for the future of recreational use.

    “The P&Z Department’s mission is to: enhance the orderly development of the town, maintain the quality of the residential neighborhoods and business districts, enforce regulations that protect the town from over-development.”

    It is hard to correlate this mandate with their actions thus far. I further suggest that a matter of this importance for a community of over 26,000 people should not be decided by seven people who, moments before, were discussing the appropriate amount of drainage for a construction application.

    To be clear, I am neither for or against these facilities. I am for preserving the quality of life of Westport. I am for the entire Westport community making a fully informed decision on a matter that will have massive ramifications for our community’s future.

    I will leave it at this: when will Westport have its first one gun store (or two – we need price competition apparently)? When will Westport NEED to have its first gun store?

    (By the way, on 5 April 2018, CT Appropriations Committee has just approved a bill for the legalization of recreational marijuana to sent to House for consideration.)

  39. More money for the state and for that town

  40. Phillip Perri

    FYI, tonight’s the night. 7PM at the Town Hall the P&Z will approve one if not 2 dispensaries (BTW there are now 5 applications pending)….one by mitigating the effectiveness of it’s own text amendment tonight first, by changing the definition of “Public Building” to allow the Bertucci’s to qualify. Congratulations Westport!! At the last hearing one Commissioner read a statement by the CFO of one applicant that said the company’s intention is to open locations in a size and scope to immediately start selling recreational marijuana as soon as the state legalizes it. CT is half way there. Congratulations Westport! Please remember the names of the P&Z commissioners that vote to approve these locations at election time. Instead of correcting the text amendment, based on new information that a retail location is not necessary, and forcing the dispensaries to be considered a medical use and only allowing them in an office building with no outside signage, they’re going to give 2 applicants billboard retail locations and the avenue to overturn any prohibition or ordinance the P&Z or RTM claims will prevent recreational sales. Once legalized, the courts will find that ordinance or prohibition arbitrary or even unconstitutional. Congratulations Westport!! Mark my words and remember my name. If these locations aren’t selling recreational marijuana within a few years after they open and CT legalizes it, I will be glad to apologize right here in Dan’s blog.

  41. India Penney

    I’m looking forward to the legalization of marijuana.
    Not that I use it (well, not since 1969 anyway!) … but it’ll be nice to get this over and done with. It isn’t a big deal. Will there be some abuse of it? Yes, of course. Just like there’s abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs.
    But MY prognostication is that the abuse of marijuana won’t even come close to the problems we’re having with alcoholism and opioid addiction. If anything, I think it will alleviate some of that. In fact, recent reports have shown that in those areas where medical marijuana is legal, opioid use is down by something like 20%. That’s great news.