Should pot smoking be allowed on town property? Wilton officials seek community input.

WILTON — Resident input on whether to restrict the use of recreational marijuana on town-controlled properties is going to be sought by the Board of Selectmen over the next few months, with the matter possibly going to a ballot vote.

With private recreational use already legal in Connecticut as of July 1, state policy on public smoking or vaping becomes official on Oct.1. Marijuana will be listed alongside tobacco smoking and vaping, with restricted locations including near doors, windows and air-intake vents of some commercial establishments.

But municipalities have an opportunity to further restrict use on what are described as town-controlled properties, including parks, sidewalks and even state land within the town’s borders.

“We would want to think about if we want to restrict in our parks, or on all town-owned property,” said First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice at the most recent Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday.

While the general sense of board members was that they did not want to see marijuana smoking or vaping taking place in any public places, they agreed the matter should be brought to the constituents, either for a ballot vote or for a public hearing prior to a board vote.

“I think it’s our responsibility to engage our population,” said Selectwoman Deborah McFadden.

“However, since we are such a family-oriented community, I think I know where this conversation will lead to,” she said. “We’re going to want to be a little more restrictive (but) I think it’s incumbent upon us to invite engagement.”

She also said it was important to hear all voices within the community on this topic.

Vanderslice said she would begin gathering information on the matter, looking ahead to presentations that would either precede a town meeting and then a ballot vote, or, if the board decides, a public hearing followed ultimately by a board vote to create an ordinance.

“Wilton does not have an ordinance,” she said, regarding smoking or public drinking, though it was pointed out that the Board of Education has policies in place relating to use on school grounds.

Selectman Ross Tartell said he was “somewhat undecided” on which method should be used to determine whether an ordinance was desired.

“I’m not clear on what decision criteria should be used to push it one way or another,” he said.

Vanderslice indicated that a town-wide vote should be called upon for issues that will impact everyone and are considered significant.

“I could see if there was a groundswell of concern if there was going to be a lot of public smoking,” she said, noting that might encourage the board to act faster and make the decision themselves.

Meanwhile, the issue of allowing a recreational marijuana store into town was also broached, with state law soon to allow for one—and no more—within Wilton’s borders.

“I’m not sure this is the draw we want,” Selectman Joshua Cole said, adding the board has recently given consideration to ideas of how to bring more people into the community.

“My vote would be to prohibit it,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything to be gained economically from it.”

Though he noted that several area towns, including Newtown and Ridgefield, have already decided against allowing stories selling recreational marijuana within their borders, Cole, too, noted that the residents should ultimately decide.

“We represent the people of the town and I think we need to hear from them on the issue,” he said.

Vanderslice said she would move forward with setting up some information sessions, which would be relevant whichever way they decide to handle the matter.

She noted that the ability to sell recreational marijuana would not be in place until spring 2022, so there was more time to look at that issue.