• Pouring Gasoline On The Fire, Who Would Do That? Pot Shops Near Our Schools

    April 4, 2024
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    (An article from Thomas Kuczynski, Stamford, CT Board of Reps, reprinted from The Connecticut Centinal, a sister site of The Manhattan, regarding a problem that plagues CT and NY: marijuana dispensaries near public schools. --Ed.)

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    By Thomas M. Kuczynski

    On Monday, April 8th, the City of Stamford’s Zoning Board will decide to approve or deny a special permit application for a hybrid cannabis dispensary — more commonly referred to as a “pot shop” — at 417 Shippan Avenue.

    The applicant is Ayr Wellness (CSE-AYR.A), a publicly-traded company based in Miami, Florida, led by Jonathan Sandelman (executive chair) and David Goubert (president & CEO). The building’s landlord, Mark Sandler, is based in Pound Ridge, New York, and our local Zoning Board is comprised of mayoral appointees David Stein (chair), William Morris (secretary), Gerald R. Bosak, Jr., Rosanne McManus, and Raquel Smith-Anderson. I name these eight people because it is not an amorphous, indeterminate malevolent force bearing down upon us but rather a handful of specific individuals whose decisions will hurt or help our school kids today and long into the future. The children are anonymous, the adults in charge should not be.

    The Zoning Board’s decision to approve or deny this “pot shop” requires them to exercise judgment regarding private “non-public” schools (Building One Community and Stamford Martial Arts) and public school extensions (soccer fields, baseball diamonds, a recreational center, and a pre-school) and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

    Their review relies on information contained in submitted applications and other inputs. The inclusions, omissions and characterizations contained in these applications are quite informative. For example, Ayr Wellness’s application states “the immediate area is characterized by a variety of commercial uses including a bank, funeral home, restaurants…, as well as others.”

    As a matter of fact, their vague “others” includes Building One Community, The Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, Stamford Martial Arts, the Knights of Columbus, Americares Free Clinic, Stamford Recreation Star Center, Cummings and West Beach Parks, and two public school bus stops. Why did they omit these from their description? Does anyone think the schools, charitable services, and parks are “commercial uses?” Or would their inclusion in the application highlight the horribly inappropriate nature of this location for a cannabis dispensary?

    Cummings Park, West Beach, and the Star Center serve as an extension of our public school campuses. Thousands of students participate in after school and weekend programs on the parks’ athletic fields and at the Star Center (which includes a pre-school). If a cannabis dispensary located across the street from Stamford High’s Boyle Stadium would be prohibited, why would we permit one across the street from an extension of our public school campuses at Cummings Park?

    If a “pot shop” shares a stairwell with a school and you can see the children’s jungle gym from the front door, is it too close?

    To exacerbate maters, these parks are broadly acknowledged as under-policed. The city’s police patrols are unable to provide sufficient coverage within the parks. This is not from lack of desire but simply because of persistent funding shortfalls. While cannabis use is prohibited in state parks, state beaches, and on state waters, it is permitted in Stamford’s parks and beaches. If our Zoning Board approves the special permit application, cannabis users can purchase the drugs and walk across the street to Cummings Park or West Beach and smoke it in the open. Again, one must question the wisdom of locating a store selling “Federal Schedule I Controlled Substances” across the street from these public resources. Who would pour gasoline on a smoldering fire?

    Scientific studies conclude cannabis use is leading to historically high rates of psychosis among young people, that it serves as a “gateway drug,” and that crime rises in the areas surrounding cannabis dispensaries. You do not need to be a doctor or criminal sociologist to know this. It just requires life experience, observation, and common sense.

    Ayr Wellness’s application goes on further to state “There are no residential uses…within immediate proximity to the proposed location.” Don’t tell that to the 225 residents three doors down at The National Church Residences and Shippan Place or the neighbors on Park and Hanover Streets, or for that matter, the thousands of residents in The Cove and Shippan Point.

    For those residents keen on having more recreational and hybrid cannabis dispensaries opened in Stamford you’re in luck. Mayor Simmons’s administration seems to be in favor of them. So much so that Stamford officials decided we should have one for every 25,000 residents. That’s an interesting calculation. At a current population of about 135,000 that allows for five “pot shops.” Three have been approved by the Zoning Board so two more may be coming your way soon.

    You may ask yourself, “why one shop per 25,000 residents?” The truth is the number can be whatever our city’s leaders want it to be -- including zero. In fact, government leadership in Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, Westport, Weston, Fairfield, Ridgefield, and Newtown have all banned hybrid and recreational dispensaries in their towns.

    When Governor Lamont approved Senate Bill 1201 in June of 2021 the adult recreational use of cannabis became legal in Connecticut (note: as a ”Schedule I Controlled Substance” it remains illegal under U.S. Federal Law). The state, however, left the regulation of cannabis dispensaries up to each municipality. So, when you see five dispensaries in Stamford and none in our surrounding towns you will know why. You will know that Stamford’s leaders decided it was good for our community to have five “pot shops” and the leaders of our surrounding towns thought it would be bad for their communities to have any at all.

    Another puzzling decision by Stamford’s leadership relates to exclusion zones from existing cannabis dispensaries. After considerable public outcry, our planning and land use team decided that new “pot shops” must be 3,000 feet or more away from any existing “pot shops” but that schools only need be 1,000 feet from them. Why would we give more protection to “pot shops” in the form of competition- free-zones than to our children?

    Hundreds of my constituents - from our newest and most vulnerable residents to our most prominent, life-long residents; from leading social service charities to state and local law enforcement officials – have voiced their profound opposition to a dispensary at this location. Please listen to them.

    I encourage my District 1 constituents in the Cove and Shippan neighborhoods and other stakeholders in the community to attend Monday’s public hearing by Zoom or phone at www.stamfordct.gov/zoning. Let your voices be heard.

    I beseech my colleagues on the Zoning Board to exercise prudence, common sense, and good judgment by denying this application. You have the factual and regulatory basis to do so. You have the authority to do so. Please don’t sell out our children for a public corporation’s ill-conceived profit plan.


    Thomas M. Kuczynski
    Board of Representatives Member
    City of Stamford
    District 1

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    They will bribe the right person to get it open it's New Yawk.

    Finally, Real NYC Investigative Journalism.
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