OSWEGO TOWN– About two and a half months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to legalize cannabis in New York, the Town of Oswego held a town hall to hear from citizens of the town regarding the possibility of opting out of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA).
Before the town hall yesterday, June 8, the attorney to the town board, Kevin Caraccioli, read resolution 2021-49, titled “Opting Out of the Adult Use Cannabis Retail Dispensaries and On-Site Consumption Sites.” The resolution itself was a draft and was not passed before or during the town hall.
According to Town Supervisor Richard Kaulfuss, the board decided to create a drafted resolution opting out as a way to start discussion and consider the control of dispensaries and consumption sites the town may have. After Caraccioli read the resolution, Kaulfuss read his statement discussing MRTA. He said that the town must consider what is good for itself in addition to its morals.
“The resolution by the Town of Oswego represents neither opposition nor acceptance of MRTA, but rather seeks to … ensure MRTA fits within the character and guidelines of the town,” Kaulfuss said.
Five members of the community spoke at the town hall yesterday with four denying support for the opt out. These rejecters included a trauma specialist, farmers and those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The first to speak, Fran Dellamano, has lived in Oswego since 1957, as he told the Town Board. He urged the board to consider allowing dispensaries more or less out of principle, as he just wants to improve the town.
“This marijuana deal, I don’t know if you can have a store here or not, but the worst thing you can do is say, ‘you can’t have it,’” Dellamano said. “Allowing the people to have a say on some of these businesses coming in makes a [big] difference on how we can grow this town.”
It is important to note that the town cannot hold a referendum for opting in or out of MRTA, according to Kaulfuss. Dellamano wound down his thoughts in a general manner, explaining that the town should look to add more businesses to it – not less – as this would help raise tax revenue.
The next speaker was a U.S. Army veteran and hemp farmer, Sarah Stenuf. She shared that she experiences post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from her time in the military, along with epilepsy. Stenuf supports opting into cannabis sales for its medicinal properties, explaining that it helped replace as many as 16 prescription drugs she took for various issues like epilepsy, anxiety and sleep.
Aside from the many medicinal benefits that Stenuf experienced, she also considered how marijuana can be used recreationally. While recreational use is something that is rather controversial, Stenuf believes that legalizing it will still lead to a safer community.
“The cannabis industry has been and always will be present in our community,” Stenuf said. “Opting out just [allows] businesses to operate without regulatory scrutiny or contributing to taxes, AKA keeping it on the black market … MRTA did not legalize any nefarious activity that is not already occurring. Underground businesses have already been supplying [New York] with high quality and affordable cannabis for 50 years.”
Other speakers include Sarah’s wife, Jennifer Stenuf, who is a licensed master social worker with a certificate in trauma. According to Jennifer, she has studied marijuana as a drug for trauma and that it is safe and very effective as seen in many studies. One sentiment that most speakers continuously brought up was the idea that citizens of the town will find a way to get marijuana, whether it be legally purchased in a different municipality or on the black market.
Ryan Cornelius, another speaker in support of opting in, said that the town needs the tax money, something it would not receive if the town were to opt out.
By the end of the town hall, Councilor Richard Tesoriero motioned to table resolution 2021-49. This motion was seconded by Councilor Victoria Mullin.
Again, Kaulfuss reiterated that the town cannot legally hold a referendum on the issue but wants to hear from the public moving forward to help reach a decision by the deadline to opt out, which is December 31.
“I wrote the resolution because I want to make sure that people review our comprehensive plan, our zoning and our plan to ensure that this was written in,” Kaulfuss said. “We have now made the public aware that this is an issue. We made the public aware that we need to address this in our laws. I am not saying we have to change anything. I am just saying [we need to make sure] it is addressed.”