Greenport Opts Out of Legal Pot Sales

marijuana plants
FILE PHOTO: Chemdawg marijuana plants grow at a facility in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo

The Village of Greenport narrowly joined several East End municipalities November 29 in prohibiting recently legalized recreational marijuana to be sold within its borders following a spirited public hearing on the topic.

The village board passed the measure by a vote of 3–2 after more than a dozen residents addressed the trustees, with eight speakers opposing the opt-out resolution, four favoring it, and two suggesting that Greenport’s leaders do more research before voting on the measure.

“I’m not opposed to this either way, I just think that we’re not really prepared for this,” Greenport Mayor George W. Hubbard Jr. said before voting to opt out.

New York State legalized recreational marijuana possession and consumption in March, but towns and villages have until December 31 to decide whether to opt out of allowing pot shop sales or cannabis cafes in their communities. But since the Shinnecock Indian Nation announced plans to open a dispensary in Southampton this year, and the tribe is not bound by town laws, some have questioned whether opting out would be effective. Greenport joins the Town of Shelter Island and villages of Southampton, Westhampton Beach and Quogue in banning weed sales.

Joining the mayor in voting to opt out was Greenport Trustee Mary Bess Phillips, who worried about the impact pot shops would have on local quality of life, and Deputy Mayor Jack Martilotta, who is concerned with uncertainty about the state regulations of the fledgling industry.

Voting against the measure was Trustee Julia Robins, who argued that regulated marijuana would be safer than black market pot, and Trustee Peter Clarke, who initially planned to vote for opting out but changed his mind after being “moved by the conversation” during the public hearing, especially comments from an octogenarian who preferred not to have to buy pot from drug dealers.

Those at the hearing who backed the opt out cited increased traffic and the smell.

“What I worry about really is are there going to be fields of marijuana growing instead of vegetables?” asked opt-out backer Margaret DeCruz.

The anti-opt out crowd cited marijuana’s medicinal value, potential tax revenue losses and large national companies beating local entrepreneurs to the emerging market. Comparisons to alcohol abounded.

“How many bars are there on Front Street?” asked one Greenport resident. “And they’re rowdy. People who smoke marijuana don’t get rowdy. It’s this mistaken reefer madness kind of idea.”

She asked the board if they use marijuana. When they said they do not, she replied: “Maybe you should try it.”

The state law allows residents of localities that opt out a chance to petition for a referendum giving voters a chance to decide whether to opt back in. Municipalities that opt out now can also vote to opt back in on their own at a later date.

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