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Norwalk: Pot City?

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Bill Dunne is a Republican candidate for Council member at-large.

Something happened recently that is potentially bad for Norwalk’s attractiveness as a place to live.  And nobody noticed.

On Aug. 16th, the Norwalk Zoning Commission, by unanimous vote of all those present, quietly approved of medical marijuana dispensaries in our town.  There was also the question of whether we should have pot farms somewhere in Norwalk, but an answer to that was deferred.

The action came five years after Connecticut joined the majority of states (now numbering 29) whose lawmakers sanctioned the sale of marijuana in some form or other. In eight of those states it is effectively legalized for “recreational” use, but most, like Connecticut, allow for only certain purported medical benefits.

Are the benefits real?  Perhaps they are, at least some of them.  They have been proclaimed as real in lots of reports, usually citing “studies” of one kind or another.  It may be worth noting, however, that there were also lots of studies showing medical benefits of opioids, methamphetamines, cocaine, and other mind-altering drugs, and we see how that has worked out.  Just because there may be medical benefits doesn’t mean that their use should not be controlled.

Republican Common Council at-large candidate Bill Dunne.

That’s why the U.S. government in 1970 enacted the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Today, almost 50 years later, the same law still governs these matters on the national level. It also answers an obvious question:  If there are medical benefits in marijuana, why can’t I just go to my doctor for a prescription, as I would for an antibiotic, and get it filled at my local pharmacy? Why must each state have entirely separate and distinct distribution systems?

Answer: because doctors and hospitals have strong incentives not to violate federal law.

The CSA has had marijuana in its “Schedule I” category ever since it was first implemented.  Schedule I drugs are deemed to have no currently accepted medical use along with a high potential for abuse.  Besides marijuana, that group includes heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.  There’s a push in Congress to move marijuana into the Schedule II category, alongside morphine, fentanyl, and methadone, which have a high potential for abuse but also some medical value.

Many say that national law is behind the times and badly needs updating.  That’s true, but it’s also true for any government regulation, especially one that’s 50 years old.  It’s got nothing to do with the question at hand. The question is: Why does Norwalk have to do this?  We are one of only a handful of Connecticut municipalities that have been authorized to host medical marijuana dispensaries if they so choose.  Westport and Stamford are two others, and both have also decided to open their doors to pot shops.

No dispensaries have opened in these towns to date, but for Norwalk to continue down this road is entirely unnecessary.  Let’s let Westport and Stamford have the honors. Either one is only minutes away for anyone in Norwalk with an interest.  Let’s have Norwalk stand out.  We have enough challenges with crime and drugs, along with the social pathologies that go with then.  We don’t need to add to them.

Consider also our schools and the kids in them.  Do we want licensed pot emporiums so near to them, reinforcing a message that pot is harmless, even beneficial?  How will that affect our schools and our property values. Do we need a reputation as a pot paradise to scare away would-be property owners?

Then there is “legalization creep.”  That happens as the very busy PR side of the pot industry keeps pushing for more and more ailments to be added to the list of things for which cannabis can conceivably help. In California, for example, the list of such ailments grew steadily, now including things like sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and anxiety. Which means that pot sales for any reason — getting high, for example — are essentially permitted throughout California.  Los Angeles alone has hundreds of dispensaries.

The die is not yet cast in Norwalk.  For these dispensaries to open, they will need further approvals from various city agencies when their proposed locations become known, and public hearings will be called.  I urge concerned residents and possible dispensary neighbors to be alert to those notices, then go to the hearings to make your voices heard.  It’s important for our kids, our schools, our property values, and our quality of life here.

Bill Dunne

Norwalk

18 comments

Rick September 24, 2017 at 5:15 am

I agree Bill but for now under the current issues at hand the Federal Prison Halfway House should of given the heads up to the city on Quintard Ave to protect our kids, our schools, our property values, and our quality of life here and didn’t.

Thank you for pointing out yet another problem that could be on the horizon.

Al Bore September 24, 2017 at 7:56 am

Allowing this in Norwalk would be very bad and it should not happen. Currently for the most part we have a very weak council, Norwalk home owners can’t afford their home values to dwindle down anymore than they already have. Shame on Norwalk’s government who doesn’t care about it’s property owners. We must vote them OUT, I will! Norwalk should try to lead instead of follow.

Voice September 24, 2017 at 8:14 am

Norwalk is a city full of slum lorded flophouses; there is no high value housing in most of the city. barnes and nobles was removed and replaced with another huge liquor store despite the high prevalence prior. crime and welfare are massive. cannabis legalization has resulted in skyrocketing property values in Colorado, DC, Boston, and ANYWHERE else it has been legalized so far. Dont believe me? Good. Go check for yourself. norwalk needs this badly; the only people who actually WANT to move there are more welfare seekers and central american immigrants, neither of which lead to higher “value” for the city at large or property values. Do the right thing and stop hiding in the past of this failing city.

Donna Smirniotopoulos September 24, 2017 at 11:23 am

A high quality, ethically run dispensary could be a god send for Norwalk. At worst, a dispensary or two will not add to Norwalk’s woes, and will have zero impact on an already notorious prescription drug and opioid epidemic in our city. Anyone with chronic, debilitating pain should have access to this treatment modality, just as they would have access to other pain relievers. Those experiencing nausea from chemotherapy treatments should also have the option to purchase from a local dispensary rather than traveling to Milford or Bethel. The Bethel dispensary is highly regarded for their caring and compassionate staff. It’s sad in 2017 that so many continue to believe in the myth of the “demon weed”, especially when most of us have seen more damage done by alcohol, where at least there are time windows and age limits, and sugar–the most insidious “drug” in our community, available 24/7 at every grocery store, mini mart, bodega and vending machine. If we’d stop to consider the impact of cardio vascular disease and diabetes on the health of Americans, we’d see that a medical marijuana dispensary is the least of our problems.

ginger katz September 24, 2017 at 11:24 am

I was there and presented my statement. I completely agree. It did not matter who showed up to speak out against the Pot Shops. They had already made up their minds. In addition, the zoning commissioners did not know that Westport had approved the MM shops. It was new news to them and they even doubted when I told them if was a fact. Voting for something without all facts is unfair. One must do their homework and find out how these shops negatively effect other towns across the country. And another thing: What About the Children?

ginger katz September 24, 2017 at 11:52 am

I was there and presented my statement. I completely agree. It did not matter who showed up to speak out against the Pot Shops. They had already made up their minds. The zoning commissioners did not know that Westport had approved the MM shops. Approving something without all facts is unfair. In addition, research is important on how these shops negatively effect other towns across the country. And What About the Children?

cc-rider September 24, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Nonsense like this is why Republican’s are out of touch with the vast majority of the population. Talking about issues that no one cares about on a day to day basis (this is your brain on drugs egg yolk cracking in a pan 1980’s psa). Norwalk will have a pot dispensary- whoopty ding dong. Would you prefer a loud nightclub that challenges our weak noise regulations? The forty year war on drugs is a absolute joke and utter waste of money unless you work in corrections of course.

Donna Smirniotopoulos September 24, 2017 at 1:24 pm

@cc-rider, I couldn’t agree more. Potential negative impacts on children, property values and crime rates have not been born out in other communities with dispensaries. A good dispensary will be more like a Wellness Center. And god knows, Norwalk could use more wellness. Dunne would be better served focusing his attention on the NPS or the Walk bridge and other development projects. This is a non-issue in search of an audience. While the City slept, Hempstead, Kulhawik and Mayor Rilling ignored a letter from Firetree alerting them to their intent to buy property and develop it for use as a prisoner halfway house in a residential neighborhood. THAT was worth sounding an alarm about. But CT has one of the most regulated medical marijuana laws in the country. Dispensaries won’t be in residential neighborhoods. Focus on the zoning regs, Mr. Dunne, and the dispensaries will not be an issue for anyone.

As far as why Federal law hasn’t caught up with medical trends, I believe this has much more to do with the lucrative multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry, which benefits not only from continued prescription opiate sales but also from seemingly benign NSAID sales, nearly all of which are for available to any many, woman and child over the counter all over the city. Side effects of NSAIDs include risk of stomach ulcers and internal bleeding. NSAIDs take 16,500 lives annually, mostly as a result of bleeding stomach ulcers. Tylenol takes nearly 500 lives a year due to acute liver failure. Tylenol is the one the pediatricians used to tell parents to give to their babies. If CVS could figure out how to sell marijuana legally next to the candy bars, which are more dangerous IMO, they would.

Donna Smirniotopoulos September 24, 2017 at 1:37 pm

I wish Bill Dunne knew more about the history of the CSA. The inclusion of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 dovetailed into Richard Nixon’s legendary hatred of hippies and their protests against the war in Vietnam. A paranoid and fragile figure, Nixon hoped that putting the war on drugs front and center would undermine growing opposition to the war by refocusing public attention on illegal marijuana use, and dragging the hippies down with it. The CSA of 1970 is nothing to be proud of.

Bill Dunne September 24, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Donna makes some thoughtful and reasonable points here, but to me they are not persuasive. My argument is not based on “the myth of demon weed”. I don’t dispute that delta-g-tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC, the principal active ingredient in pot) can have some therapeutic effects in some conditions, but I don’t know why very close proximity to a pot shop is essential for someone to acquire it. If Bethel or Milford (or, soon, Westport or Stamford) is too far, when will one mile become too far? If one mile becomes too far, will a pot shop on every corner then be required? Point is, anyone who seriously believes that THC (as opposed to various other drugs) is just the thing he or she needs can get it without much trouble.

Anyone who’s had chemotherapy (as I’ve had) knows something about inconvenience. Having to travel a few miles ain’t it. Again, there’s simply no compelling reason we should add this stigma to Norwalk’s reputation. Let the other towns have it.

Rick September 24, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Donna the new legal weed is expensive and not as good as the growers of the 70s..In fact in RI the handful of growers that are all from the 70s.

Before you push legal take the time to understand the industry not the benefits.

We want medical results not tax shelters for the politicians.

Donna Smirniotopoulos September 24, 2017 at 7:43 pm

@Bill Dunne, thank you for that thoughtful input. THC is just one cannabinoid. CBD, another cannabinoid, is not psychoactive. Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is known to have anti-seizure benefits, and shares many of the benefits of THC without the psychoactive components.

@Rick, I know those who purchase weed illegally and others with “green cards” who buy medical marijuana. This is a rapidly exploding area of agribusiness. I believe the positives of having one or two judiciously placed dispensaries in Norwalk outweigh the negatives. While those who might benefit from medical marijuana need only hop on the interstate to access a dispensary in Westport (as yet unopened) or Stamford (same), I’d rather give people more reasons to come to Norwalk and spend their money here. And based on the people I know who use cannabinoids, I do not believe the addition of dispensaries presents unique dangers that are incommensurate with what’s already going on legally all over the City.

Obesity related diseases are more deadly and cost taxpayers more money than anything related to weed. Let’s have a candid discussion about what’s really hurting our children. It’s sugar. Good lucky putting the corn growers out of business.

Donald September 24, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Bill Dunne is a typical right-winger who thinks he knows what is best for everyone. How dare you determine what is and is not an inconvenience for others.
Bill maybe your time would be better spent dealing with your right wing friends attempting controlling the kook Russian President Dotard Dump in the white house.

Juscelino M. Acevedo September 24, 2017 at 10:28 pm

Mr. Dunn,

Please allow me to disagree with you by pointing out that you have provided me with the answers to most of your very own concerns within the article that you have written, as follows:

1. You stated that “the Norwalk Zoning Commission, by unanimous vote of all those present, quietly approved of medical marijuana dispensaries in our town” – Allow me to point out that this was a public hearing that I imagine no one showed up to. Additionally, you also state that “I urge concerned residents and possible dispensary neighbors to be alert to those notices, then go to the hearings to make your voices heard.” If no one pays attention, then it is not quiet.

2. You question “Are the benefits real? Perhaps they are, at least some of them.” – Allow me to point out that you are arguing a point, then answering it. “Are the benefits real? Perhaps they are…”

3. You stated that “Just because there may be medical benefits doesn’t mean that their use should not be controlled.” – Allow me to point out that the purpose of the State allowing a dispensary to be opened is in itself controlling access to the “drug”.

4. You question that “If there are medical benefits in marijuana, why can’t I just go to my doctor for a prescription, as I would for an antibiotic, and get it filled at my local pharmacy?” – Allow me to point out that you have also answered this question by stating that “the U.S. government in 1970 enacted the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)”. In other words, doctors and local pharmacies rightfully do not want to break the law, which makes a dispensary the place to visit.

5. You stated that “Many say that national law is behind the times and badly needs updating.” – Allow me to point out that you have once again answered this question by stating that “That’s true, but it’s also true for any government regulation, especially one that’s 50 years old.” In other words, let’s encourage updating outdated laws before enforcing them.

6. You ask us “Consider also our schools and the kids in them. Do we want licensed pot emporiums so near to them, reinforcing a message that pot is harmless, even beneficial?” – Allow me to once again point out that the purpose of the State allowing a dispensary to be opened is in itself controlling access to the “drug”. Additionally, based on my very brief research, the state determines who is allowed to get marijuana in these dispensaries, and you basically must be terminally ill.

Please understand that this is in no way an attack, but I feel that your opinions do not provide any valid arguments against a dispensary in Norwalk.

US Blues September 25, 2017 at 9:28 am

Having a close friend who has terminal cancer and a script for medical marijuana, he has to travel a bit to get it.

Seems to me if we took care of our sick by having at least one dispensary in the city in a nice area (outside of the projects of sono) then it benefit our city.

US Blues September 25, 2017 at 9:29 am

ps Bill, again I’m a registered republican but I can guarantee you that I will not be voting for you come November.

Rebel INS September 25, 2017 at 11:20 am

@Bill Dunne
Thats a really good argument, Bill. It almost sounds like a Republican getting in the way of the free market, competition, and convenience to the consumer.
MMD’s carry far less stigma that methadone clinics and we have one of those. I doubt it is the reason people don’t move here.

Ross September 25, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Thanks Bill. Now I know who NOT to vote for come November.

There are bigger fish to fry in Norwalk that legal dispensaries.

Connecticut is one of, if not THE most regulated state in terms of Medical Marijuana. Once Massachusetts open their recreational shops they will be taking away potential tax dollars from CT. We can either get with the times, or let other States eat our lunch.

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

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Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.