3 cannabis retailers may be allowed in Norwalk. Here’s the city’s initial plan to regulate them.

Photo of Abigail Brone
An early version of Norwalk’s cannabis ordinance will require recreational marijuana businesses to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, youth services facilities and rehab centers.

An early version of Norwalk’s cannabis ordinance will require recreational marijuana businesses to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, youth services facilities and rehab centers.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

NORWALK — As local officials consider whether to allow up to three cannabis retailers in the city, an initial draft of regulations on the sale of recreational marijuana has been released and includes a 1,000-foot buffer requirement between these facilities and any school or rehab center.

The ordinance, which is still in its early stages, was presented to the Common Council’s Ordinance Committee last week.

Chief among the regulations outlined by the Ordinance Committee was a requirement that no cannabis retailers operate within 1,000 feet of any schools, youth-servicing facilities or rehab/recovery centers, Norwalk Health Director Deanna D’Amore said.

Additionally, cannabis businesses will not be allowed within 500 feet of “sensitive sites” such as churches and health care institutions, D’Amore said.

In February, the Common Council approved a temporary ban on the sale of cannabis products in Norwalk and planned to establish guidelines around where and how cannabis retailers can operate. The moratorium on cannabis sales remains in place until November.

The cannabis regulations in Norwalk will be a two-pronged process, with the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission determining where cannabis businesses can be located and what they may look like, while the Ordinance Committee determines the enforcement of cannabis laws and how the funds earned from marijuana sales will be distributed, Council member Josh Goldstein said.

“We have no idea how much the state is going to get in terms of total tax revenue and municipal revenue derived from that,” Goldstein said. “There won’t be retail sales of cannabis until late this year, early next year. In terms of revenue projections, the state Office of Fiscal Analysis projects about $1 million in municipal revenue in the first year, but about four years in, $18 million that will split among all municipalities that are engaged in the sale of recreational cannabis.”

Individuals fined for smoking weed in public places where cannabis use is not allowed, such as the outdoor dining space of a restaurant, will incur a $50 penalty.

Municipalities can have one cannabis establishment for every 25,000 residents, meaning Norwalk may open three cannabis retailers, Norwalk Director of Planning and Zoning Steve Kleppin said.

“My feeling is that it probably would be appropriate to keep those on the main arteries as much as possible,” Kleppin said of cannabis business locations. “When they open, there’s going to be a big rush to go to these facilities. I think as the market kind of stabilizes and the fad wears off, that will tamper down.”

Many of the questions regarding exactly where cannabis businesses will be and what signage they are permitted to post will be determined by the zoning department in a separate process, Kleppin said.

For municipalities that engage in the sale of recreational marijuana, there would be a 3 percent municipal sales tax the city would receive.

The revenue the city receives through cannabis sales is required to be used toward specific purposes outlined in the law, such as streetscape improvements, educational programs and services for people recently released from the state Department of Correction or mental health facilities, according to city documents.

Council members Diana Revolus and Darlene Young advocated particularly for educational programs in South Norwalk funded by the cannabis tax revenue.

Cannabis revenue for the city will go into a “Cannabis Trust Account” and the Chief of Community Services, Lamond Daniels, will determine how the funds will be used, according to the documents.

To qualify for a portion of the cannabis trust funds, an organization must be a tax-exempt charitable organization, have a focus on benefiting the lives of Norwalk residents and cannot request more than 50 percent of the organization’s total annual expenses, among other requirements outlined by Daniels.

“As we think about this trust fund, we want to make sure the services are available and convenient, accessible in location,” Daniels said. “We want to make sure that program is impactful, that we’re really changing lives. They may start at point A, but through your program or project, how can you move them to point B, how can you move them to sustainability, to empowerment.”

Committee members emphasized the ordinance is in the early stages and a community conversation will still be held to determine what should be done with the municipal funds before the ordinance is approved and cannabis ban lifted.

abigail.brone@hearstmediact.com