State denies license for local pot dispensary

SHERIDAN ROY

STAFF WRITER

The Department of Consumer Protection announced on Dec. 11 that nine new dispensary facilities in Connecticut would receive licenses by the state’s medical marijuana program. Although a Southington medical marijuana dispensary application for 30 Knotter Dr. had been approved recently by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, it did not make the DCP’s list for licensure, which halts its plans to open.

There were 73 requests for applications (RFAs) received and reviewed by the DCP in 2018, and the state expected only three to 10 would be selected. Through a competitive process, dispensary facilities were selected to receive licenses upon payment of the license fee and submission of final documentation.

The list of approvals includes facilities in: Newington, Groton, Meriden, Mansfield, Torrington, Stamford, Westport, Windham and New Haven.

The medical marijuana program in Connecticut has grown significantly since the last time new facility licenses were awarded in Jan. 2016. At that time, there were 8,228 patients benefiting from the program, according to the DCP. Today, there are 30,488.

“Originally, there were only 11 conditions that would qualify adults for medication, and there were very few patients,” consumer protection commissioner Michelle Seagull said in a press release. “Today, there are 31 conditions for adults, eight for patients under 18, and over 1,000 certifying practitioners.”

The Southington Town-wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS), a nonprofit organization composed of representatives from different sectors, was a strong voice against the approval of the medical marijuana dispensary in Southington prior to the PZC vote.

Youth prevention coordinator and STEPS member Kelly Leppard said the coalition has been proactively working with the PZC throughout the conversation.

“We understand and are sensitive to the arguments of those in support of having a medical marijuana dispensary in town,” said Leppard, “but we feel this was a favorable outcome from our standpoint as it pertains to prevention, perception of risk, and reducing access to marijuana.”

The PZC decision to approve the dispensary was based on existing regulations, which limit dispensaries to either B or CB zones (business or central business). In April when the applicant came before the board, senior planner and vice president of Milone & MacBroom Vincent McDermott said the location was consistent with the standards set forth by regulations.

Since the DCP did not offer the Knotter Drive dispensary a license, the Southington facility will not open at this time. The RFA may have been denied for a number of reasons, according to the DCP’s RFA qualification criteria.

RFAs are scored in five categories: business information of applicant; location and site plan; proposed business plan; proposed marketing plan; financial statements and organizational structure; and potential bonus points, for a maximum of 2,000 points. Applicants must reach at least 1,500 points to be considered.

“After completing the review and scoring of the applications, the department shall rank each according to its score. The applications with the highest scores will be awarded a dispensary facility license so long as the highest ranking applications reflect a diversity of ownership and provide an appropriate breadth of geographic coverage,” states the criteria. “If the highest ranked applications are in close proximity to each other or to already existing dispensaries, the department may award a dispensary facility license to the next highest ranked applicant(s) whose location will enable the program to best meet the needs of patients throughout the state.”

The commissioners may disqualify any applicant who: fails to submit a complete response and pay the application fee prior to the submission deadline; submits incomplete, false, inaccurate, unresponsive or misleading information; or fails to timely notify the commissioners of changes in the information provided in response to the RFA.

“It may be possible to return to the state if another round of locations gets released from the state,” said director of planning and community development Rob Phillips. “However, their special permit must be filed on the land records to be valid.”

The recent announcement of RFA approvals is the second round of license approvals that the state has distributed. It is unclear when the next round will be.

“As I understand, it is based upon the number of registered patients and likely from a patient density analysis as well,” said Phillips.

There are now 18 licensed dispensaries and four producers within the state’s medical marijuana program.

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

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