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Preliminary survey results show residents in favor of allowing marijuana dispensaries

Preliminary results of a public input survey on the legalization of marijuana suggest that a majority of residents are in favor of the town allowing dispensaries and on-site consumption at lounges.

Ann Marie Prudenti, the deputy town attorney, said the “rough results” she has examined showed approximately 60% of the responses were in favor of allowing the dispensaries and 40% supported an opt out. The Town Board is expected to hear a more detailed analysis of the survey results at Tuesday’s meeting. The deadline to respond to the survey ended Friday.

Ms. Prudenti, speaking at Thursday’s work session, said the survey results seem to follow the national trend in states where marijuana has been legalized, as it has been in New York. She said there were “considerate comments” from residents on issues such as distancing from schools, concerns about driving under the influence and other matters the Town Board has discussed as it weighs its decision.

“The supervisor on Tuesday will have those results and present them to all of you,” Ms. Prudenti said of the survey.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar was not at Thursday’s work session.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent said she’s not in favor of opting out and would rather the town regulate and restrict as best it can where marijuana dispensaries and lounges can be located. Councilman Tim Hubbard said it appears Southampton Town is leaning toward allowing the dispensaries, so one could theoretically be allowed in Riverside just across the town border.

“That’s right in our downtown area,” he said.

Ms. Prudenti noted that the Shinnecock Reservation, which is located within the Southampton Town boundary, has outlined plans for retail marijuana, which would likely influence Southampton’s decision to allow the dispensaries.

While the deadline is Dec. 31 for the town to make a decision on the opt out, the details of opting out actually lead to a more accelerated timeline. That clock is quickly ticking, Ms. Prudenti noted.

The parts of the legislation dealing with retail sales and on-site consumption are subject to a what’s known as a permissive referendum. 

This means that within 45 days of the enactment of the local law, if a petition opposing those provisions is submitted by 10% of the registered voters in the last gubernatorial election then a public vote can be set, Ms. Prudenti had previously told the board. The vote would take place either at a special election or at the next general election.

Mr. Prudenti said Thursday the procedure is to adopt a resolution authorizing the publish and post for the local law, followed by a public hearing. The Town Board typically keeps a hearing open for written comment. Once those are reviewed, the board would vote either for or against the local law at its next meeting.

Based on that timeline, the Town board could vote for the resolution May 19 if it wants to opt out. On June 2, a public hearing could be held and it could be adopted June 15. At the latest, Ms. Prudenti said, the June 2 Town Board meeting could be the date to vote on the resolution, leading to an adoption on July 7.

“If the Town Board is thinking they want to move forward with an opt out, you really have to do it in those time parameters,” she said.

Councilman Ken Rothwell suggested the town proceed with the resolution to keep all options on the table and to avoid potentially running out of time.

“I’d like to get as quickly to the public hearing as we can so that we get public feedback before we make a final decision,” he said. “In the interest of time, I think we should start right away at the next available board meeting.”

Councilman Frank Beyrodt added: “I think it’s imperative to hear what the public wants us to do on their behalf.”

The Town Board still has more time to consider the specifics of how to regulate dispensaries and on-site consumption if it chooses against opting out.

The effects of legislation in New York are already being seen as a publicly traded cannabis company, Columbia Care, purchased the Van de Wetering Greenhouses site on Sound Avenue, the companies recently announced. Columbia Care already runs the medical marijuana dispensary in Riverhead Town.