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Prospect Zoning Board Bans 'Cannabis Establishments' As Connecticut Legalizes Weed

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Courtesy: Town of Prospect
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Possession of cannabis for recreational use will be legal in the state on July 1. But under the new law signed by Gov. Ned Lamont Tuesday, towns and cities can prohibit retail sales. Officials in Prospect have decided to do just that.

Bob Chatfield has been mayor of Prospect for a long time -- 44 years -- but he’s been answering the call for car wrecks involving drivers under the influence for longer.

“I’ve been a first responder here in Prospect for 57 years, and I’ve seen an awful lot of that,” Chatfield said. He’s worried the town will see more.

He said his biggest fear is marijuana “getting in the hands of 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds.” If that happens, he thinks “we’ll see a rise in DWI and fatalities on the highways.”  

Last week, the Prospect Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to prohibit what the bill calls “cannabis establishments” in town. Medical marijuana establishments are already prohibited, but growing facilities are legal. Currently there are no such licensed facilities in Prospect. 

But not everyone thinks that strategy will be effective.

“The cannabis will be available to those who want it just as it is now,” said Eric Sterling, former executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation.

He said this law doesn’t change much for youth. 

“This measure will do nothing to affect the rate of teenage marijuana use in that town or the amount of driving under the influence in that town,” he said.

He argues that what was illegal before will still be illegal for those younger than 21 under this new law. Sterling thinks legalization offers the opportunity to create social norms around responsible marijuana use.

Under the new law, any municipality can prohibit sales in town or regulate hours of sales and signage. 

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Ali covers the Naugatuck River Valley for Connecticut Public Radio. Email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org and follow her on Twitter at @ahleeoh.

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