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September 8, 2021

Enfield council votes to ban cannabis sales

Joe Chaisson | Journal Inquirer During the public hearing portion of the Enfield Town Council meeting held at Town Hall on Tuesday, resident John Santanella, who is a Democratic-endorsed candidate for the council, said residents and not the council should decide whether cannabis establishments can operate in town.

Enfield's Republican-dominated Town Council on Tuesday, in a 6-3 vote along party lines, approved an ordinance banning cannabis establishments from opening in town.

The six Republican council members who voted in favor of the ban are Mayor Michael Ludwick, Carl Sferrazza, Lori Unghire, Kelly Hemmeler, Charlotte Riley, and Joseph Muller. The three Democratic council members who voted against the ban are Cynthia Mangini, Gina Cekala, and Robert Cressotti.

Republican council members Donna Szewczak and Joseph Bosco were absent.

The split vote followed a more than 1½-hour public hearing where 30 residents spoke out about the proposed ordinance, with 22 voicing opposition to it while six were in favor and three were indifferent.

Possession and use of marijuana for people age 21 and over became legal in the state on July 1, with the sale of cannabis expected to happen sometime in 2022. The new legislation, however, includes an option for towns to prohibit cannabis establishments by ordinance.

The town began exploring that possibility not long after the legislation passed.

Elizabeth Davis, a former Democratic councilwoman, said she was shocked the town wouldn’t be interested in new businesses coming to town.

“It’s unheard of that the town would push away business,” she said. “I don’t think this banning has anything to do with cannabis and drugs. I think it all has to do with … (Gov. Ned) Lamont (passing) a law and you guys are mad because he’s a Democrat.”

Douglas Finger, a Democratic candidate for an at-large council seat, said he was unsure where he stood on the matter, but said, “I’d rather see cannabis in a store versus on the streets.”

Several residents, including former Democratic Councilwoman Kathleen Sarno, said council members should allow residents to decide at referendum whether to ban cannabis establishments from setting up shop in town.

“Springfield does a great job. I don’t know what you’re basing your vote on so I just think this should go to referendum. I don’t think it’s up to the Town Council to decide,” Sarno said.

Multiple residents compared alcohol to marijuana, saying it’s not right that the town has 15 liquor stores, yet it wants to ban pot sales.

Residents who were in favor of the ordinance cited a concern for children’s safety.

Prior to voting on the matter, Sferrazza said he was in favor of the ordinance due to the risk the sales could create to public safety and youth.

“If you’re driving under the influence of alcohol, there are well established protocols and procedures that police follow. Our Connecticut state statute defines intoxication using a BAC, — blood alcohol content of 0.08,” Sferrazza said. “With respect to marijuana, you can drive high, but what does that mean? What does that mean for the police? How high is high? The police officers have no way to do it.”

Mangini said residents should be responsible for their own decisions, which includes the decision to purchase marijuana.

“This is not about giving drugs to children. This is about commercial business, it’s about revenue generated for our town and it’s also people’s choice. People have rights to choose especially when a law has been passed saying you have the right to do this if you choose to. I want to allow people to make their own choice on the matter,” Mangini said.

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