PZC continues public hearing for pot facility

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

The Planning and Zoning Committee continued the public hearing about an application for a medical marijuana dispensary to be located at 995 Queen St. The commission decided to table their decision and continue the public hearing once again, to Tuesday, April 3, in order to give the applicant, Praveen Dhulipalla, time to prepare a stronger report about the business’s potential impact on property values.

At the same meeting, the commission also introduced a second application for a medical marijuana dispensary to be located at 30 Knotter Dr. A public hearing for this item will be held on Tuesday, April 17, at 7 p.m., at a regularly scheduled PZC meeting.

A licensed engineer presented a traffic study and the architect presented the site plan. The traffic study compared two-hour traffic studies at three nearby medical marijuana facilities in Bristol, Hartford and South Windsor. He reported an average of eight customers per hour during peak hours.

Using a 2012 traffic report of Queen Street, he reported approximately 17,700 vehicles per day on Queen Street. He said the additional cars traveling on Queen Street to get to the dispensary would be virtually unnoticeable.

The architect explained the proposed layout of the facility to the commission. Some board members expressed concern with the entry into the building.

Dagmara Scalise asked about the process for registration for a medical marijuana license.

“If you have a condition, you go to the doctor, and the doctor will have to authorize or approve that you have a qualifying condition,” Dhulipalla said. “He then writes a letter of approval, so the person can register through the state.”

Dhulipalla’s facility would have a registration area where a receptionist can assist a patient in filing for registration. After registration is complete, it takes a few weeks for the state to approve the request. Then, the patient would be able to return and become a registered patient of the dispensary, and begin consultations with the pharmacist.

The physician who approves a patient of having a qualifying medical condition does not prescribe a dosage. It is the pharmacist’s job to have consultations and determine the dosage and specific type of medication.

Dhulipalla said there will be four certified and trained staffers: the dispensary pharmacist, the dispensary technician, a registration coordinator-receptionist, and security personnel. He noted when the facility is receiving deliveries, all operations in the building freeze.

Residents in favor of the application shared stories of how medical marijuana has benefited them personally. Andy Florian shared a story of a friend with a serious disease. He recalled the friend at one point experienced severe pain merely from the weight of a bed sheet touching his skin.

“He started using medical marijuana, and he was absolutely amazed,” said Florian. “It was a miracle drug for him.”

Tom O’Connel shared his own experiences as a medical marijuana user.

“It’s medicine, and it’s made so you can focus again and regain your life,” O’Connel said. He said that he experienced a severe injury several years ago that broke his spine in three places. “Ask my friends and family, and they’ll tell you the difference between someone on opioids just trying to survive, and someone who takes a little medical marijuana and regains his life.”

Ten residents spoke against the application, including five youth from the Southington Town-wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS) Youth Council. STEPS youth expressed concern that approving the facility would send the wrong message to youth.

STEPS Youth Councilor Margaret Miller urged the commission to deny the application. “The moment Connecticut legalizes marijuana, we will have a real problem on our hands,” she said. Another councilor, Mary Miller, shared a 2004 study which argued that accepting marijuana as medicine convinces youth that it is good for them, and therefore entices them to try it.

Nearby neighbor of the proposed location, Tracy Wales, argued the traffic study that referenced a 2013 report of Queen Street was incorrect, and outdated. “That study does not take into affect the new facilities,” she said.

Wales said the facility would be at the entrance of a residential neighborhood, and it will hurt property values. “There are plenty of other spaces,” she said. “I’m not against medical marijuana, but put it somewhere else.”

Feeling that the applicant’s own personal study of property values was inadequate, chair Mike DelSanto asked Dhulipilla to hire a consultant to do a true study. The study will be presented on April 3 before the public hearing portion of the meeting.

“I’m not comfortable closing this public hearing at this time,” DelSanto said. “We would rather hear from a licensed professional.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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