Voters, not the Homer Town Board, will decide whether to ban marijuana dispensaries and facilities at which the drug can be smoked in the town, the town board decided Wednesday night.
After a public hearing at which no one expressed an opinion, the board voted, 5-0, to place on the Nov. 2 general election ballot in the town a referendum for a proposed law that would make such businesses illegal in the town of Homer outside the village.
The state made such establishments legal statewide earlier this year, except in those municipalities that enacted local laws banning them.
During the hearing, one woman asked for clarification on what the law entails and town Supervisor Fred Forbes read a letter from a resident who encouraged the board to ban the marijuana-related businesses.
“I think the town should opt out of marijuana dispensaries and onsite consumption locations,” Melissa Potter wrote. “Generating revenues is certainly appealing, but at what cost? My main concern is for our children, the next generation, that will be growing up here thinking that this is accessible to them. With increased accessibility, comes their increase ability to use it. The state’s restrictions on location is not enough.”
Forbes emphasized after the meeting that the referendum will decide the matter and he encouraged Potter and others to vote.
“It is the intent of this board to send this issue to the voters so the voters can decide the issue,” Forbes said earlier during the meeting.
He said the town could later reverse its decision if a ban is imposed. If voters defeat the ban, the town could still limit the location of marijuana sales and use facilities by enacting zoning regulations. However, once allowed, it cannot later be banned.
Town Board member Kevin Williams said he has tried unsuccessfully to solicit opinions from residents and was surprised that none were forthcoming, unlike when he sought opinions about other issues in the past.
“I’ve been running around trying to talk to people about this for the last month,” Williams said. “I think the citizens and the people in the town of Homer need to tell us what to do on this.”
At the conclusion of Wednesday’s meeting, Forbes expressed concerns about addictions.
“I used to smoke three packs (of cigarettes) a day,” he said. “I know what addiction is. Now I’m preaching.”
However, data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that marijuana is far less addictive than nicotine. It reports 9% of marijuana users are addicted to it, while most nicotine users are addicted.