Commends TPZ’s vote against medical marijuana dispensaries

To the Editor:

Last night, the Fairfield TPZ unanimously voted to reject two medical marijuana dispensaries proposed for the Post Road. This concluded two intense weeks of work for hundreds of Fairfield residents who opposed the site, and we are extremely pleased and grateful by the outcome.

Is it a victory? When neighbors first met about the issue, it was clear that many of us know, are acquainted with or have lost a loved one to illnesses that might have been ameliorated with medical marijuana. But putting two dispensaries smack dab in the middle of residences, children and school bus stops while drawing 10 of thousands into our community to shop for pot is not a viable way to help any of us.

Sadly, this fiasco could have been avoided. Connecticut is not the first state to legalize medical marijuana. California, Washington, Colorado and 16 other states, plus Washington, D.C., beat us to it. But as we all learned through recent testimony and research, the results have been a disastrous potpourri of increased crime and illegal drug use that severely threaten the lives, safety and health of citizens in those states. What a shame Hartford didn’t try something different.

Instead of leading boldly, state lawmakers were all too eager to follow blindly, emulating models of fiasco and failure. Instead of doing its homework, the state dumped a self-created mess onto local zoning boards and told them to figure it out.

Take congestion — an issue near and dear to any TPZ. The Department of Consumer Protection expects three to five dispensaries for the entire state, but towns can accept or reject them. If you’re the only community in the state to approve of a dispensary — a scenario we fought to avoid in Fairfield — up to 2% of state residents estimated to qualify for medical marijuana — that’s 70,000 individuals — would wind up on your local roads to get to the pot shop.

There are other issues, like crime and kids. We learned during the Fairfield hearings, for example, that there had been some talk in Hartford about keeping dispensaries at least 1,000 feet from schools, but that idea was abandoned as untenable. Why?

During the past few weeks, we and the Fairfield TPZ asked obvious questions that should have been addressed by Fairfield Rep. Kim Fawcett and others before they voted “yes” for medical marijuana. Instead, they created a mess and dumped it onto local leaders to mop up.

Most critically, because Connecticut punted instead of crafting thoughtful, considered legislation, we had no choice but to fight the dispensaries in order to protect our children and neighborhoods, even as we want family members, loved ones and others who need medical marijuana to get the help they deserve.

Our Fairfield TPZ should be commended for calling for more reasoned governance in Hartford and for rejecting the proposals until that time. Its homework and hard work is invaluable to the town of Fairfield.

Hopefully someone in Hartford will follow our local officials’ lead and wake up so everyone — from kids at bus stops to terminally ill patients to residents concerned about crime, congestion, and property values — can benefit.

It’s not impossible. It just takes work.

 

Leslie Geary

Ann Atkins

Fairfield

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