At their Sept 29 meeting the Greenwich Board of Selectmen discussed whether to designate a public area in town for people to use cannabis.
In 2021, Connecticut became the 19th state to legalize recreational cannabis for adults 21 years and older.
Under The Responsible and Equitable Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis Act or RERACA, adults can legally possess and consume cannabis up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis plant material or an equivalent amount of cannabis products and no more than 5 ounces in their homes or locked in their car truck or glove box.
RERACA says that municipalities with populations of over 50,000 must include a designated area where public consumption is allowed.
To date Greenwich has not acted to limit public consumption of cannabis, but they do have not a designated an area for use.
“Right now as it stands, open cannabis use is legal in town unless we as the Board of Selectmen were to take action and restrict that,” said Select person Janet Stone McGuigan. “My interest here is trying to help establish community norms, consistency and, what is the legal use of cannabis versus alcohol, versus tobacco.”
At town hall there is a designated area behind the building where employees go to smoke tobacco.
Mr. Camillo said he was unsure whether that was codified.
“You wouldn’t envision people drinking or smoking on the job,” Rabin said to a round of laughs.
Ms McGuigan said she didn’t think a designated public place for cannabis use would become an attraction.
And then there was the question about whether there is any container law in Greenwich. Open containers in Connecticut are mostly illegal, even though there is a no statewide ban.
Camillo noted that it’s illegal to smoke cigarettes in pubic spaces other than designated ones. He pointed out that smoking cannabis is still “smoking.” Therein lies the potential conflict.
Designating a place to allow cannabis consumption might create a conflict with existing law.
Selectwoman Lauren Rabin pointed out that cannabis can be consumed in ways other than smoking.
“Smoking and using cannabis are not necessarily the same thing,” McGuigan added.
McGuigan, a former longtime member of PTA Council, said, “It was impressed upon us that when cannabis finds its way into our schools it’s a real problem.”
“What are our options to restrict use if we wish to?” McGuigan asked. “What are other towns doing? What are our enforcement options and where is the community on this?”
Connecticut’s Clean Indoor Air Act regulates where tobacco products can be smoked. RERACA was updated to incorporate language for cannabis, hemp and tobacco and covers vaping in addition to smoking.
In general people won’t be able to smoke or vape cannabis anywhere they can’t smoke or vape tobacco. But would it make sense to designate the area behind town hall where people smoke cigarettes to also smoke cannabis?
Per the state law, cannabis usage is prohibited in state parks, on beaches, and on the water. In general, cannabis is prohibited in any place where smoking tobacco is prohibited.
And, specifically, the state law prohibits people from smoking pot or tobacco cigarettes while within 25 ft of a door, window, or air intake vent of restaurants, retail stores, schools, school grounds, childcare facilities, elevators, dorms, hotels and publicly-owned buildings.
While the law allows people to smoke in a parked car if it is not in a parking lot with 10 or more spaces, but it prohibits people from smoking cannabis while driving or as a passenger in a car.
And although residents can also smoke cannabis in their back yards or inside their home s, if they are renters, it is only on the condition their landlord doesn’t prohibit it in their lease.
Camillo said he’d spoken to the police chief who agreed there was a conflict.
Camillo, who previously served as State Rep in the 149th district, said there were times when a new law yielded unintended consequences and updates to the law followed.
“I’m waiting for the state legislature to clear that up because it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. You can see it coming,” he said.
“If and when they take it up again in Hartford and clarify the law,” he added. “If you establish one (public space) you’re breaking the law based on prior laws.”
“I don’t know if town council can take a look at it and give us some guidance. There are already laws on the books that prohibit this type of activity.”
The Selectmen agreed they would take up the question at a future meeting.