WATERTOWN – City council will take the first step on Tuesday evening to prevent marijuana dispensaries from opening in the city.
In an informal vote three weeks ago, the city council tasked city manager Kenneth A. Mix with drafting a law that would ban the sale and distribution of marijuana in the city.
On Tuesday evening, councilors are expected to schedule a public hearing on July 19 to allow the public to speak out on the issue.
Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, signed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in March, towns and villages can choose to refuse approval of retail pharmacies even though they would have to forego the tax revenue generated by the marijuana facilities.
Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith believes crime would increase in the city, especially around pharmacies. He heard that there had been break-ins, robberies and break-ins in other cities that legalized pharmacies.
"I don't think it's in the city's best interest to have them," he said.
During a working session three weeks ago, Police Chief Charles P. Donoghue briefed council members on the problems that pharmacies and convenience stores could be causing. Black market problems could also worsen, he said.
Anita K. Seefried-Brown and Tammie Miller, both of the Alliance for Better Communities, also 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 as it is legal for personal use.
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.
Mayor Smith said it was not worth the little cash in the city's revenue that the pot deals generate.
Councilor Ryan Henry-Wilkinson was the only councilor to support her when the issue was discussed during the working session. He said the waiver won't solve any of the societal problems caused by marijuana, so why not get the roughly $ 30,000 in tax revenue.
The ban would not go into effect for 45 days. If the city refuses, a public referendum would be held if someone circulated enough signatures on a petition to stop the law.
If the referendum is approved, the city must allow pharmacies. However, the city would use zoning to limit them to certain areas of the city.
The petitions cannot be distributed online; they must be circulated with actual signatures, Mayor Smith said.
The council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chamber on the third floor of City Hall, 245 Washington St.
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