WATERTOWN — City Manager Kenneth A. Mix will start working on keeping marijuana dispensaries from opening up in the city.
In an informal vote, the City Council decided to draft a law that would ban the sale and distribution of marijuana in the city after discussing the issue during a work session Monday night.
“I really don’t want to see dispensaries in the city,” Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said.
Anita K. Seefried-Brown and Tammie Miller, both of the Alliance for Better Communities, offered council members a variety of reasons to opt out of the state law that went into effect March 31.
The organization just finished up completing 12 focal groups of children between seventh and 12th grade that yielded information about legalizing pot, alcohol use, smoking and other types of drug use.
They’re concerned that pot use would increase in the community now that it’s legal for personal use.
“We have a train wreck coming,” Ms. Miller said.
Police Chief Charles P. Donoghue told council members that the legalized dispensaries and places of consumption could actually increase crime, especially near the establishments. Issues with the black market also could get worse, he said.
If the city doesn’t opt out, the city would receive 3% of a 13% excise tax from the retail sale of marijuana in the city. The city must officially opt out by Dec. 31.
Councilman Ryan Henry-Wilkinson said opting out will not solve any of societal ills caused by marijuana, so why not receive the $30,000 or so generated in revenue by the tax.
“I don’t know if there’s going to be a benefit for the little tax dollars,” Chief Donoghue said.
If the city opts out, a public referendum could be held if someone circulated enough signatures on a petition to stop it.
According to the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in March, cities, towns and villages will have the option to opt out of allowing retail dispensaries, although they would have to forego those tax revenues generated by the marijuana establishments.
Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo Pierce expressed concerns that the city would not be allowed to opt out later if the dispensaries cause too many issues. She’d rather see the effects that other communities go through before allowing them to exist here.
Council members Leonard G. Spaziani and Lisa A. Ruggiero also would like the city to opt out.
The town of Watertown is also considering to opt out of the law.