Legislation that would bar the sale of marijuana in the Town of Somers was the subject of a public hearing March 7 with all but one of the speakers supporting the proposal.
The Town Board came up with the legislation in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
Following last week’s public hearing, the Town Board decided not to vote on the legislation, instead agreeing to hold off until it was determined what would happen with the state legalization legislation.
The town legislation would mandate fines of between $500 and $1,000 for each infraction. Marijuana sales would be banned in any building, structure or premises in Somers.
Somers Partners in Prevention Chair Kathy Cucchiarella said she supported the town legislation. She asked the town board to tell state legislators to “stop, slow down and let’s learn from other states that have already legalized marijuana” before taking action on the governor’s proposals. Many organizations and others, including law enforcement, educators and health professionals, oppose legalization, she said. Cucchiarella said the states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana have experienced negative impacts.
Another supporter of the local marijuana sale ban last week was Dr. Russell Kamer. Members of the Medical Society of New York were in Albany the day before the Town Board meeting to “absolutely, positively oppose recreational marijuana in the State of New York,” he said. The Town Board agreed to the request from Kamer to include in the town legislation a ban not only of the sale of marijuana, but the barring of the production and growth of it.
Friends who live in Colorado have said the state has declined since it legalized recreational marijuana use, Kamer said. “It used to be a nice place,” Kamer said, now his friends call Pueblo, CO “the Napa Valley of cannabis.”
Resident Ann Cornick said she did not oppose the use of medical marijuana, but opposed its use for recreation. “Once you get into it, there’s no taking it back,” she said.
The only resident to oppose the town legislation last week was Michael Blum. The cost of the criminal justice system for enforcing laws against the use of marijuana has been huge, he said. “A lot of that cost will go away” if recreational marijuana use was legal, he said.
The state marijuana legislation would continue to ban the use of the substance for those under 21, Blum said.
Blum said marijuana was not addictive and was not a gateway drug that makes users seek harder drugs. “If you have an addictive personality,” a person could be addicted to any drug, he said.
The states that have legalized marijuana have seen a reduction of vehicular deaths due to opioids, Blum said, noting there are people who use marijuana to relieve pain, including his wife.
Supervisor Rick Morrissey said he disagreed with the state legalization effort. The board agreed with Morrissey’s call to table the legislation until the state acted or did not act on the legislation. The town would be “on solid ground” if the Town Board eventually banned marijuana sales.
Councilman Anthony Cirieco said the state Legislature is still considering marijuana legalization. If legalization was approved, the town could ask Westchester County to opt out of having it legal.
Cirieco said he did not want marijuana use to be commercialized.
Though he opposed legalization of marijuana use for recreational purposes, Cirieco said he did not oppose the use of the substance for medical uses and was in favor of decriminalization for those who use it.
Councilman Richard Clinchy said he also did not oppose the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Clinchy, who has been an educator for 35 years, recalled teaching a student who had a substance abuse problem who eventually entered into recovery. Clinchy said he did not want to see drug use encouraged.
“I can’t get out of my head the one girl,” Clinchy said, with his voice cracking.