Guilford to call time-out on cannabis sales

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By By Ben Rayner • 09/28/2021 4:37 PM EST

With the legalization of recreational cannabis, cities in Connecticut are scrambling to understand not only the economic impact, but also the social and public health ramifications of what the new law actually means for municipalities.

According to city officials, for Guilford, the economic benefits seem less important than the potential quality of life issues that will be affected by the law. For others, the law is a gateway to abuse, addiction, and law enforcement now faces a host of problems that legalization has brought.

So what are the municipalities doing?

First Selectman Matt Hoey said he sees both sides of the problem and believes a slow but steady approach may be the best solution for the city. He believes Selectman’s board will implement a temporary moratorium, which he hopes will provide a valuable break so that all aspects of this complicated issue can be assessed.

“We know we have to deal with this, and… it’s obviously a community-wide issue,” Hoey said. “A temporary moratorium will occur. And that’s just so that we can get a better idea of ​​what our community wants. The most important point to remember is that we need to engage fully with the community, in full dialogue. There are a lot of players involved in this. “

According to city officials, they face many issues when dealing with this problem. There are state warrants, municipal ordinances, planning and zoning issues, and the ultimate fact that cannabis is still illegal under federal law, which causes uncertainty when attempting to plan strategies. .

Another factor highlighted by law enforcement and those who oppose retail are the higher potency levels of today’s marijuana products, according to data and city officials. Newer forms of ingestion, including edibles, oils and tinctures, can be considerably stronger and are absorbed by the body via a different mechanism than smoking, which can cause a more intense effect, especially for new users. This effect is even more intensified when used in combination with alcohol.

Guilford Police Chief Butch Hyatt echoed the sentiment and pointed to the drain that cannabis use can cause for emergency services dealing with overly intoxicated users, but stressed that the staff training will be one of the critical steps to deal with the impact of the law.

According to Hyatt, the law is mandated that a drug recognition expert (DRE) be on-site during numerous vehicle incidents to determine levels of impairment, or available to perform impairment tests at another site. . Unlike other drugs such as opiates and alcohol, which have clear headings and measures for determining an individual’s level of intoxication, there is currently no test to determine if someone is under. the influence of cannabis / THC and, if so, how high is the level. .

According to Hyatt, the most significant impact of the new law will be the process of training a DRE officer, which is not only time consuming, but also academically difficult, making hiring the required personnel extremely onerous for some. departments. Guilford currently has a DRE agent, according to Hyatt, and he hopes these new positions and certifications will be a way to regionalize some of the resources for regional departments.

“We have a DRE officer, so it’s beneficial, and we hope our officer can help train other officers here as well,” Hyatt said. “We still don’t have a good idea of ​​how many DRE agents we will need or what area we will need to cover, as we share our DRE agent with other departments. We are looking at this now to see what we need to move forward. This can be an opportunity for us and other departments to regionalize some of this work and maximize our resources.

Hyatt said it was too early to determine whether his department had seen an increase or made any difference in the number of impaired stops made since the law came into effect.

However, Hyatt has pointed out that smoking and driving is not legal, and it urges residents to keep their THC products at home and off the streets of Guilford.

“Legal cannabis is no different from alcohol. This substance is now legal, so residents are free to enjoy it, but in complete safety. Do not smoke and drive a vehicle. Use a designated driver if necessary and make the streets safe for everyone, ”Hyatt said.

Other organizations, especially those focused on adolescent drug use, are deeply concerned about the potential effect of the new legislation on the most vulnerable members of the community.

Guilford Youth & Family Services (GYFS) released a statement that said in part, “The availability of retail marijuana sales in Guilford would reduce the perception of marijuana risk among our youth and increase youth access. When the perception of the risk of a substance decreases, we know that consumption increases. Retail sales of marijuana in Guilford would send a negative message to our young people. “

One organization that openly opposes the promotion of legal cannabis is Developing Assets for Youth (DAY), which is administratively chaired by the GYFS and is a mandated aspect of a previous federal grant. DAY is actively advocating for a permanent moratorium on the sale and promotion of cannabis, not just a temporary moratorium.

In a letter, accompanied by a report, sent to Selectman’s Guilford board of directors in August, DAY called on the city to enact a permanent retail ban on all cannabis products.

In part this letter read. “Guilford DAY calls on the board to ban the retail sale of marijuana in Guilford. We call for the ban as a public health measure – a message to parents and children in Guilford that marijuana use is a significant risk to children’s health. “

DAY founder and member William “Bo” Huhn said the problem is very complex and urged residents to look at data from the DAY site that describes the science of how THC affects young people both physically. and psychologically.

“One way or another, we have to educate parents, children and the public about the problem. We need to communicate with people and let them know how dangerous this drug can be for young people, ”Huhn said. “It’s unfortunate that some people have sold this as a funny thing. We really want people to understand the risk these products pose to children and youth.

For more information and to view the data collected by DAY, visit www.itsworthitguilford.org. You can also find information on the GYFS website www.guilfordyouthandfamilyservices.org.


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