Marijuana referendum snuffed out

A marijuana plant. Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant/TNS

WATERTOWN — The town of Watertown is the latest municipality to opt out of the state’s law to allow marijuana dispensaries.

As expected, the Town Board on Thursday night decided to opt out of the state law that legalizes pot shops.

Before the unanimous vote, Town Supervisor Joel R. Bartlett said the law would cause an increase in the black market for pot because drug dealers could offer their products for less than dispensaries.

“We’re going to in a big way condone drug use in the north country,” he said, discussing the opening of marijuana shops in the town.

Only one person spoke during a public hearing. Bart Bonner was against opting out, contending that pot shops should be allowed to open in the town.

If they disagree with opting out, residents could initiate a petition that would force a referendum for voters to decide if dispensaries and places of pot consumption should operate in the town.

The town’s local law is patterned after other legislation put together by nearby municipalities such as Lewis County’s and the city of Watertown’s laws. Earlier this week, the town of Lyme also decided to opt out.

According to the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act that went into effect in March, cities, towns and villages have the option to opt out of allowing retail dispensaries, although they will have to forego the tax revenue potentially generated by the shops.

Under the MRTA, marijuana sales will be taxed at a 13% rate, with 9% going to New York state, 3% going to the local government and 1% going to the county. However, Mr. Bartlett doesn’t think it would be a big money maker for the town.

To ban a dispensary, the local government’s legislature had to pass a local law enacting the ban before Dec. 31.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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