Lyme voters to decide on dispensaries

Town of Lyme offices, Route 12E. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

LYME — Voters will have the opportunity on Nov. 2 to decide whether marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites can come to town.

When the New York State Legislature passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in March, it included a stipulation that towns and villages can choose whether to allow dispensaries to sell marijuana, or “pot lounges” to sell and allow patrons to consume marijuana on site, within their borders.

Lyme Town Supervisor Scott G. Aubertine said the Town Council members didn’t feel they had a mandate to decide on the issue themselves, so they decided to ask the residents.

“I think our board felt it was too big a decision for the board itself to make,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that are for marijuana, a lot of people are against it, so we figured we’d let the people decide.”

Voters registered in the town of Lyme will see a proposition on their general election ballot this November, asking if the town should opt out of licensing or establishing cannabis dispensaries or on-site consumption sites. A “yes” vote means no dispensaries or consumption sites should be allowed, and a “no” vote means they would be permitted.

The state’s law does allow town and village leaders to ban dispensaries without a vote, stipulating that residents may, if they choose to, force a referendum vote by turning in a petition asking for a vote. The results of that vote would determine if the town follows through with the dispensary ban or not.

Mr. Aubertine said the town was approached by the Jefferson County Board of Elections, which offered to include the ballot measure at no cost to the town.

“If we were to do a special referendum, that would have cost the town,” he said. “We just took advantage of the election board’s offer to do it for free, essentially.”

The village of Chaumont, within the town of Lyme, will not be impacted by the results of the town vote. Mayor Valerie M. Rust said the village wanted to offer residents its own proposition to residents about permitting dispensaries, but were too late in approaching the county Board of Elections.

“We tried to do our due diligence, really check into how much revenue the village might lose by opting out, before we made our decision,” Mayor Rust said. “And it was within days that we were too late to put it on the ballot.”

At the Sept. 21 Board of Trustees meeting, the village passed its opt-out law, and sent a mass message to all village residents informing them they had 30 days to file a petition forcing a referendum vote. Residents have until Oct. 21 to turn in a petition with signatures of voters who are now village residents and were registered to vote in the last gubernatorial election. The petition must have at least five signatures, just over 10% of the 42 gubernatorial votes cast in the village in 2018’s general election.

Though putting the decision on the ballot would have been ideal to ensure every village voter had a chance to make their opinion known, Mayor Rust said, the petition and referendum process will have to do if anyone in Chaumont truly wants a dispensary to come to town.

“It is what it is, and they get the option of a petition if they really want it,” she said.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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