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Town Board majority opposing marijuana opt-out

A majority of the Riverhead Town Board said Thursday they do not support opting out of a state law allowing marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption sites in Riverhead Town. The board will meet again on the issue next Wednesday.

In interviews following Thursday’s work session, board members Tim Hubbard, Frank Bayrodt and Catherine Kent said they don’t support opting out, while Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and Councilman Ken Rothwell both said they are still undecided.

New York State legalized marijuana on March 31, but left open two issues for towns and municipalities to decide: whether to allow public on-site consumption and whether to allow retail sale of marijuana. 

The Town Board would face a July 7 deadline by which to pass a resolution opting out of those areas, should that be their choice. 

The town also would need to wait 45 days to see if anyone challenged their decision to opt out via a permissive referendum, which would mean that a townwide vote be held at least 60 prior to Election Day.

Opting out also would mean losing out on the 3% sale tax revenue the town would receive. 

The Town Board held a public hearing on June 15 in which speakers from both sides of the issue spoke. It also conducted an online survey, in which 73% of respondents supported marijuana sales in Riverhead and 61% favored allowing public marijuana consumption in cafes or lounges. 

“I’m supporting the survey,” Mr. Hubbard said. “I don’t want to opt out.”

Ms. Kent said the town has the ability to regulate where marijuana can be used in the town through zoning. 

“Plus, we’re not a rich town, we could use the sales tax,” she said. 

“I am not in favor of opting out,” Mr. Beyrodt said. “I would rather have it regulated in certain zones, to keep it away from schools and churches.”

Ms. Aguiar said she is still researching the issue.

“It’s critical that I look at the entire picture,” she said.