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East Hartford Grants Approval For Medical Marijuana Dispensary

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An application has been submitted to the planning and zoning commission for a medical marijuana dispensary at 90 Pitkin Street. (Suzanne Carlson, Hartford Courant)

By Suzanne Carlson, Hartford Courant

EAST HARTFORD — A special-permit application for a medical marijuana dispensary on Pitkin Street won approval from the planning and zoning commission on Wednesday night.

“I’m happy,” said Elaine, 61, who spoke in support of the dispensary at the commission’s meeting. An East Hartford resident who declined to give her last name, Elaine said she has suffered from Parkinson’s disease since age 30 and is looking forward to using marijuana to ease her severe head tremors.

The zoning approval for a 5,142-square-foot dispensary in an existing building at 100 Pitkin St. is contingent on the applicant, Constitution Care LLC, receiving approval from the state Department of Consumer Protection, which is expected to grant licenses by next month.

The company had sought exemption from disclosure of certain portions of its application under the state Freedom of Information Act, but town staff determined this week that the documents could be released in their entirety.

Constitution Care lawyer Michael Whelton said the facility would be open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and would be staffed with a licensed pharmacist, a receptionist, two technicians and at least one security guard at all times. Patients would have to go through rigorous screening upon entering the building, which would be reinforced with steel doors and ballistics-grade glass, Whelton said.

A security representative said Constitution Care has operated dispensaries in Arizona and Washington, D.C., for the past year and has had no thefts, break-in attempts, or risk to patients.

State law limits patients to buying a one-month supply at a time, which Whelton said is usually around one-eighth to a quarter of an ounce of marijuana.

Resident Esther Clarke spoke against the dispensary, saying she believes that the business would lower property values and that some patients could resell the drug as a moneymaking venture.

“We have gangs in East Hartford. We don’t need a medical marijuana facility anywhere near us,” Clarke said.

But Whelton said the state saw fit to legalize medical marijuana for people such as Elaine, and “the legislature decided that the hope to patients such as this lady far outweigh the concerns of Mrs. Clarke.”

Elaine said she has an MBA and worked as a finance consultant in Washington, D.C., for companies such as Fox TV and Pricewaterhousecoopers before retiring. “I am not a criminal. I just have this condition and I need help, and East Hartford can provide that to me,” she told commissioners.

Elaine said that she receives Botox injections to numb her neck muscles, but that the treatment costs about $3,000 every three months. She expects medical marijuana, which was recommended to her by a doctor, to be a cheaper, more effective alternative.

Elaine said she was one of the first Connecticut recipients of a medical marijuana card two years ago and has paid $150 annually to keep her registration current, but has never used the drug because there are no legal dispensaries in the state. State officials told her to “do what you have to do,” she said, and while she is allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of the drug, she chose not to buy marijuana from street dealers because she fears being arrested.

Zoning commission member Paul Roczynski said he’s researched the use of medical marijuana, adding, “it’s amazing what it does to help people. … I think it’s going to be a good thing.”

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