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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v13/n355/a12.html

Newshawk: http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm

Votes: 0

Pubdate: Wed, 24 Jul 2013

Source: New Haven Register (CT)

Copyright: 2013 New Haven Register

Contact: letters@nhregister.com

Website: http://www.nhregister.com

Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/292

Author: Susan Misur

Page: A1




Planning and Zoning commissioners put it bluntly: A medical marijuana grow facility could be good for the area.


They unanimously approved a simple site plan review Tuesday night for Fairfield-based Advanced Grow Labs LLC to produce the controversial plant at 400 Frontage Road, although the company will now need to apply for state approval.  If the state grants the business one of only a few permits, the location could open in early 2014.


Since the city is one of the first in the state to approve such an application, it's an opportunity for it to get in on the bottom floor of the state's burgeoning medical marijuana industry.


"I want to thank the town planner and West Haven for opening a community dialogue and commissioners for being courageous," said David Lipton, managing partner of Advanced Grow Labs.  "This is a big step for residents of Connecticut to get the medicine they need."


The PZC heard a presentation on the idea earlier this month, but delayed a vote after expressing a need for more research and concerns that while state law allows people to use medical marijuana, federal law prohibits it.


Members showed a new enthusiasm for the plan Tuesday night and had also reviewed a June 7 memorandum from the attorney general's office that says it "cannot reasonably conclude that the proposed regulations are clearly preempted by federal law and, therefore, conflict with federal law." They were pleased to hear the business, which will only grow marijuana and not dispense it to the public, will initially provide around 15 jobs and occupy and clean up a property that has been vacant for six years.


"So many people said, 'You know that there's going to be a negative stigma on West Haven if we're known for selling ( marijuana ), '"said Vice Chairman Steven R.  Mullins, who detailed his past membership with the city's Drug and Alcohol Task Force and experience in teaching DARE students about substance abuse.  "But this not substance abuse at all.  It's not a promotion of substance abuse.  ...  If anything, it will be positive for West Haven and show us looking forward."


Commissioner David Riccio acknowledged the idea of growing medical marijuana legally is hard for some to accept, since it's always been viewed as negative and criminal.


"It's a new idea.  It's a new era," Riccio said.


The grow facility was categorized on its application as a plant nursery and would be located in an industrial zone.  Though site plans, such as the one submitted, typically receive quick and easy approvals, the specific building use for growing medical marijuana took more time because it was new to commissioners.


The state last year passed legislation saying medical marijuana could eventually be grown and dispensed.  Regulations are expected to soon be finalized and, at that point, growers and dispensaries can begin applying for permits.


Lipton expects that he will apply in September or October.


Advanced Grow Labs has not applied to any other towns for production locations, but may apply for dispensaries.  It chose West Haven for this application because the existing building is near the highway in "a perfect location for us," Lipton said.


Advanced Grow Labs has plans for security measures, such as motion detectors and security cameras, as well as a locked area for waste bins that contain leftover plant parts, which will be mixed with soil so that they won't be usable to others.  A minimum of two employees will be present at any given time.  State regulations will also require strict security strategies.


"It definitely satisfies me as someone who's going to be working there and is concerned about my own security and safety and anyone in the community around us," Lipton said.


The company also plans to make parking lot and landscaping upgrades, as well as improve a wheelchair ramp.


Company representatives couldn't specify the amount of taxes possibly generated by the business, but Lipton anticipates installation of $500,000 of equipment, which would be taxable.  Advanced Grow Labs would at first occupy 26,000 square feet, although there is additional vacant space for expansion.


Chairman Gene Sullivan accepted public comments, although a public hearing was not required.  Only resident Paul Kaplowe spoke and said while he was glad a decision was delayed, he now supports the proposal.  Whitney provided him with information after he reached out to her.


"My big concern was the amount of energy or resources the town would have to provide to them, as opposed to what they can provide to us.  After hearing and listening and reading, I think it would be a smart thing for us to go forward with it," Kaplowe told commissioners, adding that officials should ensure the building will be cleaned up and improved aesthetically.


Lipton said he's not concerned about a negative stigma on medical marijuana production facilities.


"What we'll be doing here is manufacturing medicine, like any other pharmaceutical company," he said. 

MAP posted-by: Matt


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