P & Z Commission Considers Allowing Easton Farmers to Grow Cannabis

The Planning & Zoning Commission is proposing amendments to the town’s current zoning rules regarding the sale and growth of cannabis in Easton.

The commission has drafted two amendments that would place a moratorium on the sale of cannabis in town but allow farmers to cultivate cannabis on their land.

A public hearing on the cannabis amendments, including a third amendment to establish a site-plan requirement for individuals seeking to process animals in town, will be held Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Easton Public Library.

The first amendment would allow farmers in Easton to apply for a state license to grow cannabis on their farms as an ancillary activity. Interested farmers must apply for a Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection micro-cultivator license to grow cannabis to sell to a business licensed to sell marijuana in the state. Recreational cannabis in Connecticut was legalized in June 2021.

“The commission has, and one of the things we pride ourselves on, is to always keep Easton an agricultural town and give farmers the ability to do ancillary activities to help their sustainability,” said Easton’s Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Ray Martin.

Connecticut state regulations allow for a number of micro-cultivators in a town based on its population. Easton’s current population would allow for only one, Martin said.

Micro-cultivators can grow cannabis for recreational and medicinal use. Their facilities are smaller than other cultivators at 2,000 to 10,000 square feet of grow space. Applicants are chosen by the state via a lottery system.

In October 2021 Easton became the first municipality in Connecticut to allow a state-licensed hemp producer, Easton Grows LLC, to grow cannabis on town-owned land. Easton Grows is owned by Easton residents Jeff Becker and Dwight Senior and two other partners. Hemp is a non-psychoactive variety of the cannabis plant and the hemp that Easton Grows produces is sold for medicinal and other non-recreational purposes.

Another proposed zone change would place a moratorium on the sale of cannabis in a retail space in town. Retail locations in Easton are considered a pre-existing non-conforming use, which means they do not fall within current town zoning regulations. Greiser’s, the Easton Village Store and the Blue Bird Inn have been exempted to allow for the continued establishment of their pre-existing businesses. Martin said the addition of a cannabis dispensary would fall outside of the pre-existing non-conforming use, and would not be allowed under the current zoning regulations.

“We didn’t want to waste the staff’s time or anybody else’s time putting in an application to think that it was possible to (sell marijuana) in Easton,” said Martin.

The commission also wants to require applicants seeking to process animals on their land to submit to the commission a site plan. The proposed regulation change comes after four Tranquility Drive residents sued Easton’s Zoning Board of Appeals for upholding a permit issued to Andrew Blum that would allow him to operate a chicken slaughterhouse on his Tranquility Drive property.

Charles Welch, one of two Tranquility Drive residents who petitioned the commission for the zoning amendment, told the Courier that requiring applicants to submit a site plan will make their application public because it would be brought to the P & Z commission as an agenda item for approval. Tranquility Drive residents said they had no idea Blum wanted to operate a slaughterhouse on his property because he never went before the commission.

In June, Superior Court judge ruled in favor of residents opposed to a chicken slaughterhouse being built on Tranquility Drive stating a slaughterhouse was not a permitted accessory structure to a residence.

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