June 15 – WATERTOWN – City Manager Kenneth A. Mix will begin work to prevent marijuana dispensaries from opening in the city.
In an informal vote, the city council decided to draft a law banning the sale and distribution of marijuana in the city after the issue was discussed during a working session on Monday evening.
“I really don’t want to see any pharmacies in town,” said Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith.
Anita K. Seefried-Brown and Tammie Miller, both of the Alliance for Better Communities, offered council members a variety of reasons to move away from the state law that went into effect March 31.
The organization has just completed 12 focus groups of children between 7th and 12th grade providing information on the legalization of cannabis, alcohol use, smoking and other types of drug use.
They fear that cannabis use will increase in the community now that it is legal for personal use.
“We have a train wreck,” said Ms. Miller.
Police Chief Charles P. Donoghue told council members that the legalized pharmacies and consumption places could actually increase crime, especially near the facilities. Black market problems could also worsen, he said.
If the city didn’t opt out, the city would receive 3% of a 13% excise tax on retail sales of marijuana in the city. The city must officially de-register by December 31st.
Councilor Ryan Henry-Wilkinson said opting out won’t solve any of the societal problems caused by marijuana, so why not get the roughly $ 30,000 in tax revenue.
“I don’t know if there will be any benefit for the small taxpayers’ money,” said Chief Donoghue.
If the city refuses, a public referendum could be held if someone circulates enough signatures on a petition to stop it.
Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, signed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in March, towns and villages have the option of refusing to approve retail pharmacies even though they would have to forego the tax revenue generated by the marijuana establishments.
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Councilor Sarah V. Compo Pierce raised concerns that the city may not be able to get out later if the pharmacies cause too many problems. She would rather see the impact other communities are going through before allowing them to exist here.
Council members Leonard G. Spaziani and Lisa A. Ruggiero also want the city to get out.
The city of Watertown is also considering getting out of the law.