The Riverhead Town Board will hold a public hearing June 15 on a proposed local law that would ban retail marijuana dispensaries and marijuana “cafes” and lounges in the Town of Riverhead.
State legislation adopted in March legalized the use, possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana in New York. The new law gave municipalities the ability to opt-out of retail sales and on-premises consumption sites within their boundaries. A municipality that opts-out loses the local share of sales tax revenue on cannabis products. The new law establishes a 13% sales tax on marijuana retail sales and consumption. Of that, 9% goes to the state, 1% goes to the county and 3% goes to the town.
The board split 3-2 Wednesday in favor of holding a public hearing on a local law to opt-out of retail marijuana sales Riverhead Town, with council members Tim Hubbard and Catherine Kent voting no.
Both Hubbard and Kent said the online survey conducted by the town — which garnered 1,400 responses, 73% in favor of allowing retail marijuana sales — was sufficient evidence of community opinion on the subject.
“I’m not against public hearings,” Kent said. “We did have 1,400 people weigh in on an online survey,” she said. “I think our community has spoken and it was like 73%.”
Hubbard said he agreed with Kent.
“To hear another 10 or 12 people at a public hearing on something that we’ve already heard from 1,400 people isn’t going to change my mind,” Hubbard said.
Council members Rothwell and Beyrodt both voted yes without comment . But during a previous board discussion, Rothwell said holding a hearing would provide an opportunity to educate residents on the new state legislation.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said a public hearing provides an opportunity to hear from residents who might not have access to the town’s website, where the survey was posted.
“I’d like to hear from the remainder of different segments of the population, such as seniors, who may not have access or seen the survey,” Aguiar said. “And even if it is 12 people, we want to be all-inclusive. This is another method to hear from the public,” she said.
“We can’t do 1,400 — you can’t have a public hearing with 1,400,” Aguiar said. “I respect everybody’s opinion, of course, and I’m going to vote yes. I want to hear from the segment — from that particular population when they come in here and voice their opinions on marijuana,” Aguiar said.
Should the board adopt the opt-out law, it would not be effective for 45 days. Opponents of the opt-out law can force a vote on it at the November election if, during that 45-day period, they file a petition signed by registered Riverhead voters in a number equal to at least 10% of the number of votes cast for governor in Riverhead Town during the last election for governor.
According to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, 11,882 votes were cast in the Town of Riverhead in the 2018 election, the most recent election for New York governor.
The public hearing on Riverhead’s proposed opt-out law is scheduled to take place at 6:05 p.m. on June 15 at Riverhead Town Hall, 200 Howell Avenue, Riverhead.
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