BETHEL — After weeks of looking for a place to open a medical marijuana dispensary, and with a Thursday deadline looming, a Trumbull company finally found a home in an empty building on Garella Road near Interstate 84.
D&B Wellness Inc. had to secure zoning approval somewhere to receive one of six state licenses to operate a dispensary.
The company had failed twice — once in Stratford and again in Bridgeport — and seemed likely to be turned down in Redding as well.
But securing approval in Bethel turned out to be a simpler affair, and it was quietly arranged in about a week.
“I felt like it was divine intervention,” said Angela D’Amico, co-owner of D&B Wellness.
Had the Bethel location not worked out, Fairfield County would have had no marijuana dispensary.
Town officials said approving the application was a fairly straightforward matter.
“The use is considered a retail use, which is a permitted use in the zone, so we were obligated to issue a zoning permit when requested,” said Town Planner Steven Palmer.
“It’s similar to a pharmacy like CVS, where prescriptions are filled, so we treat it much the same way. We don’t have any specific regulations regarding medical marijuana.”
D’Amico said she and co-owner Karen Barski met with Palmer early Tuesday and presented their plans for the site — which include extensive security measures, as required by the state. After getting his approval, they took off for Hartford.
There, Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein and other officials met with the Trumbull women and issued their license.
“I really felt my knees go weak,” D’Amico said. “Karen and I both were working on four days of no sleep. We did a month’s worth of work in days.”
In their monthslong effort to open a dispensary, the co-founders hit repeated obstacles from the three towns.
In January, even before the state selected D&B as one of six companies eligible to receive a license, Stratford imposed a 12-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. The town had been the company’s first choice for a location.
In April, the Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission rejected D&B’s application to occupy a site there amid vocal opposition from neighbors and a city councilwoman.
When the 30-day deadline to secure zoning approval was about to run out, D&B won an extension until May 15. The owners turned to Redding, where a space above a barbecue restaurant on Old Mill Road seemed their best option.
But because of issues with D&B’s application for a land use change, the town zoning office refused to put the matter on the agenda for Wednesday’s zoning commission meeting.
In D’Amico’s mind, the problems in each municipality came down to the same thing. “I feel that we were discriminated against,” she said.
In Bethel, Palmer decided to approve the request after checking the application against town zoning regulations and conferring with First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker and other town officials.
“… Obviously, this is something we needed to educate ourselves on a little bit,” he said. “But we also have to be true to our regulations, and I have an obligation of enforcing the rules to apply them evenly and without prejudice.”
The dispensary, to be known as Compassionate Care Center of Connecticut, will operate by appointment only, with a secure entry requiring verification of a patient’s state certification to buy medical marijuana.
Palmer acknowledged that some residents might not like having a marijuana dispensary in town, “but there’s 29 states that have legalized it for medical use, and we are one of them.”
“Obviously, the state has determined that there is a public need for this, and they’ve issued licenses accordingly,” Palmer said. “To deny someone access by virtue of my own opinion or the opinion of a few people would really be detrimental to the greater good.
“When people really understand what controls are in place from a security standpoint … whatever concerns or fears they have will hopefully dissipate,” he said.
[email protected], @domalleynt, 203-731-3350
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service — if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.