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Gorham voters to decide on Marijuana Law
GORHAM, NY – By Tuesday night, residents in Gorham may know if a town law opting out of the sale of marijuana in retail stores and its onsite consumption will stay on the books.
Registered voters will decide to either keep the town law in place or repeal it in a vote scheduled from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9, at the Crystal Beach Fire Department, 4468 state Route 364, and Gorham Fire Department, 4676 Kearney Road.
If the law is repealed, then the issue of whether to opt into allowing sales and consumption or not will go directly to the voters, this time to be included on a general election ballot rather than a Town Board vote.
Late last year, the Gorham Town Board voted 3-1 to opt out of allowing adult-use marijuana retail dispensaries and consumption sites, which are otherwise allowed under New York state law. The board had until Dec. 31 to make the opt-out decision.
Ann Marie St. George, owner of St. George’s Grocery & Deli and Pizza Sangiorgi in Gorham, helped lead an effort to push for the public vote Tuesday, but is unsure which way residents will go in this Ontario County town of a little more than 4,000 residents.
“It’s going to be very, very interesting to see,” St. George said.
Gorham Supervisor Fred Lightfoote said the decision was made to hold the vote at the polling locations normally used in the general election.
“We thought it would be less confusing,” Lightfoote said.
A lack of information and confusion are among the reasons why Lightfoote and other board members decided to opt out in the first place. That same lack of information concern was echoed by leaders in other Ontario County towns such as Canandaigua and Farmington, among others, in deciding to opt out.
The city of Canandaigua and town and village of Victor will allow retail sales but not places for consumption.
Lightfoote said he also is concerned about whether allowing businesses to sell cannabis would make it more accessible and acceptable to youths.
“It appears everything was put together quickly, without having all of the issues associated with it ironed out,” Lightfoote said.
St. George said communities can benefit in several ways, including a “shot in the arm” from added revenue and the promise of a safe product for consumers. Ontario County would receive 1% of a tax on gross cannabis sales revenues and Gorham, as well as other municipalities that allow it, would get 3%. Revenue also would go toward education and drug treatment programs.
People will go to the communities that allow it whether Gorham opts in or out, St. George said.
“By not doing it, it’s not going to prevent either the sale or use in the community,” St. George said.
Regardless of the vote’s outcome Tuesday, St. George said ideally the issue should have been placed on a general election ballot across the state rather than putting pressure on small town boards to decide.
That would better settle the debate, she said.
“If the community wants it, they should have it,” St. George said. “If they don’t want it, then the community spoke and we don’t have it at this juncture.”
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