WATERTOWN — It’s now town of Watertown residents’ turn to chime in about marijuana dispensaries.
The Town Board is expected to decide next week to opt out of the state law that legalizes pot shops.
A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the town hall, 22867 County Route 67, to allow residents a chance to comment about the issue.
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.
But Town Supervisor Joel R. Bartlett said he doesn’t think residents will support a referendum, adding that the town consists of an older population “who doesn’t understand marijuana.”
If it ever went to a referendum and it passed, the town already has a plan on how to handle the issue of pot dispensaries opening in the town. The town can establish a zoning district where dispensaries can only operate, he said.
Town officials have picked an area near the town of Adams boundary, Mr. Bartlett said.
“It’s far from the city and the town,” he said.
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, he said.
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.
To ban a dispensary, the local government’s legislature must pass a local law enacting the ban before Dec. 31.
In July, the Watertown City Council opted out of the law. But organizers collected enough signatures to force a referendum and for city residents to decide whether pot shops should open in Watertown.
The referendum will be held in November 2022, as long as the signatures on the petitions are certified and they have enough signatures to move forward.