Cazenovia poised to opt-out of retail marijuana sales, mayor says

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CAZENOVIA — The village was expected to opt-out of retail marijuana sales at Thursday evening’s village board meeting, making it one of the first in the area.

“All the expert testimony we received at our public hearing last month was very emphatic and counseled us to opt-out, using objective data to back that up,” Cazenovia Mayor Kurt Wheeler said. “And personally? I personally haven’t received one citizen contact us asking to opt-in.”

Cazenovia citizens were given notice of the public hearing, but only one citizen attended who spoke in favor of opting out.

Wheeler said he had invited experts to give input to the village board, including representatives from the Madison County District Attorney’s Office, the Cazenovia Chief of Police, a representative from the Cazenovia Central School District, and someone from Madison County BRIDGES.

“They offered expert testimony, citing the experience in Colorado, prevention science, the likely impact on schools, difficulties in enforcing DUI laws, and more,” Wheeler said.

“And personally, after listening to their testimonies? Until New York gets its hands around these issues, I think it would be irresponsible to increase the availability of high potency cannabis products in our community,” the Cazenovia mayor added.

New York State gave local municipalities the choice whether to opt-in or opt-out to recreational sales. They cannot opt out of the legalization aspects of the law — they can only opt out of allowing retail sales in their jurisdiction.

Wheeler explained that if no action was taken, Cazenovia would automatically opt in to the program as per New York State law. However, while Cazenovia is looking to opt-out, the decision can still be reversed at a later date.

Wheeler said if people disagreed, a petition can be passed to force a referendum.

“But given that one person hasn’t contacted me about this and you need 20% of all registered voters on the petition, it seems unlikely,” he said.

“But if a year from now, none of our neighboring communities have had a problem, they’re getting all kinds of tax revenue, and their citizens love it, we can opt-in at any time. But this is the only time, this calendar year, communities can opt-out,” the mayor added.

“To me, this is not a difficult decision,” Wheeler continued. “Given the very limited amount of revenue and the significant public health and safety issues, opting out and waiting to see how it goes in other places is a prudent action.”

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