Town of Homer to hold public hearing on marijuana retail sales

The town of Homer board members will be holding a public hearing at its Aug. 4 meeting in regards to potentially prohibiting the retail establishment of marijuana dispensaries within the town.

The proposed local law, initiated by town supervisor Fred Forbes, would have the town opt out of allowing marijuana retail sales and on-site consumption at businesses.

In March, recreational marijuana was legalized for adults ages 21 or older in New York state. Communities, however, were given the option of opting out of allowing sales. Growing marijuana plants was legalized as well, but it came with a limit and could not take place until at least 18 months after the first legal marijuana sale in NYS.

Forbes said the proposed local law would only affect marijuana retail sales, not the growing or use of it.

“If it was up to me I would not allow the sale of it in the town of Homer,” he added.

Forbes noted that he wants to hear from town residents before taking action with the proposed law. He also added, based on responses during the public hearing, the town would look into having a referendum on the proposed law. It would give town residents the opportunity to vote on it during the general election in November.

“A decision like this shouldn’t be confined to a 5-person board,” Forbes said. “We want the people to decide.”

If the town doesn’t make a final decision to either opt in or out by Dec. 31 of this year, the town won’t have the “possibility to opt out,” town attorney Pat Snyder said. He added that if a decision was made before the end-of-year deadline, the local law can be reversed next year.

Snyder also noted a mandatory referendum is not required “at the moment,” but language for the proposed local law would have to be drafted in two weeks or less following the public hearing.

An option the town board could have considered was allowing residents to petition to get 10% of signatures (130 signatures in total) from town residents who voted in last year’s election. The signatures would allow for a referendum to vote on the local law in this year’s election.

Residents would have had 60 days to get the required signatures from town residents, Snyder said.

“I want the people to have a say on this,” board member Kevin Williams said. “I don’t want to legislate yes or no with them, and I don’t want them jumping through hoops either.”