Cannabis advocate urges New Milford to offer users a safe place: 'You’d be surprised by the lack of riffraff'

NEW MILFORD — A cannabis legalization advocate has urged the Town Council to create a safe environment in New Milford for people to purchase cannabis. 

“I feel it’s in the best interest of the town to create an environment that’s monitored where not only the purchasers can be safe in purchasing, but you understand where cannabis coming from,” said Zachary Mecier, who was invited by the mayor to speak to Town Council as officials consider whether and how to permit recreational cannabis sales in New Milford.  “It’s tracked seed to sale and they know they’re getting a product that’s healthy.”

Mecier, a Wolcott resident, shared his experience in the cannabis industry as part of the Town Council's discussion on Monday about New Milford's one-year moratorium on recreational cannabis sales.

Mecier, 41, said he's been a cannabis legalization advocate since he was 15, and that he got into the cannabis industry five years ago when Massachusetts opened its first cannabis dispensaries. He said he has since built over $300 million worth of industrial and retail cannabis dispensaries and over 15 cannabis dispensaries in four states.

He told the council he's been using cannabis for 21 years and “is not going to stop," adding, “Other cannabis users aren’t going to stop.”

Recreational cannabis sales have been banned from town since January, when the Town Council imposed its moratorium to buy time for the town to better understand the state’s legislation on recreational cannabis sales and learn what other states and towns are doing. The moratorium will last one year, though the Town Council can revisit the moratorium anytime, whether to extend it or truncate it.

The council's discussion on cannabis sales continued after the hearing was closed. Some council members said they'd like to hear more information. 

“We need to have somebody who can provide the statistics and the facts and figures of what’s happening in other towns in Connecticut,” Council Vice Chair Katy Francis said.

Councilwoman Hilary Ram said the council would benefit to hear from “the other side” with data supporting why the town should wait to learn more about regulating cannabis sales. 

Mecier said he entered the cannabis industry to create a safe place for people to purchase cannabis. Along with sharing his own experiences in purchasing cannabis, he said one thing that's novel about the industry is "if there's an issue of kids getting into cannabis, you can now track the purchase all the way back."

Councilwoman Mary Jane Lundgren said she was concerned about people buying cannabis on the black market where it could be laced with fentanyl, and Mecier said he has seen incidents in which this has happened over the years. 

Mecier also addressed the council’s concerns about traffic and people creating lines out the door at the dispensary. He said the town is likely to get as much foot traffic as a liquor store, given the time it takes to secure permits and open a dispensary.

“I think you’ll be surprised when it eventually opens… there’s not as much cannabis users as you think,” Mecier said on future dispensaries in New Milford. “There’s really not a lot of us. You’d be surprised by the lack of riffraff it creates.”