Jay, Wilmington residents file petitions to put cannabis on ballot
Voters in the towns of Jay and Wilmington might have the opportunity to weigh in this November on the towns’ adopted cannabis dispensary and licensing laws.
Recreational marijuana was legalized statewide last March, and local governments had until Dec. 31, 2021 to pass local laws opting out of allowing dispensaries and/or on-site consumption licensing within their boundaries, which both Jay and Wilmington town councils did.
Local laws opting out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licensing were subject to a permissive referendum. While villages could opt out and pass a resolution to place the laws on the ballot, towns had to wait for residents to file a petition to put the laws on a ballot. If enough residents signed a petition — at least 10% of the residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election — the laws could appear on the next general election ballot. That means Jay would need at least 108 signatures on its petition and Wilmington would need at least 58 signatures on its petition.
Jay Town Councilor Knut Sauer and Wilmington town Supervisor Roy Holzer filed petitions last week in their respective towns for a permissive referendum on the local laws. The petitions haven’t yet been validated by the town clerks, but both petitions have more signatures than they needed.
Town clerks have to examine the petition within 30 days of receiving it, according to the New York Conference of Mayors. The clerk then has to give a certificate to their town council saying they have looked over the petition and whether or not they believe it complies with the law’s requirements.
Both Sauer and Holzer said they wanted to circulate the petitions so town residents would have an opportunity to make the final decision on the cannabis issue.
Sauer said he submitted a petition with 153 signatures on Friday on behalf of a few people who had collected petitions. He said the town’s attorney, Daniel Manning, is looking over the petition for validity. Jay Town Clerk Carol Greenley Hackel said Monday that she’d never reviewed a petition and wanted Manning’s help in checking it. As of Monday, Manning said he hadn’t reviewed the petition yet.
Sauer said he made a commitment last year to help put the petition together for anyone who wanted to circulate it. He made posts on Facebook and Jay Community News letting people know about the petition, and he said quite a few people showed interest in carrying a petition. He wasn’t sure exactly how people gathered the signatures, but he said he thought people sought out their friends, neighbors and family for signatures.
Sauer wants people to be educated about the local law before voting. Since the one adopted local law is opting out of cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licensing, anyone who wants to vote in favor of opting back in to either option would vote against the adopted law. A “no” vote on law would translate to a “yes” to opting in. A “yes” vote on the law would be a vote to stay opted out. If the local law is upheld, the town council could still vote to opt in to either option in the future.
Holzer said he circulated the petition himself, going around to the town’s post office, stores and other places to “snag” signatures. He noted that he didn’t gather signatures in his office or on town time.
He said he got almost 70 signatures and that he filed the petition last Thursday or Friday, a week ahead of the town’s 45-day deadline to file one. He said he doesn’t see a reason why the petition won’t be validated.
Holzer thought most people who signed the petition seemed indifferent about opting in or staying opted out, but that most people were “very thankful” that the whole community could have the opportunity to decide on the issue.
“I honestly feel that whether you’re for it or against it, there’s something about people getting behind ‘majority rules’ concept,” he said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly said that the town of Jay passed a local law opting out of cannabis dispensaries and a local law opting out of on-site consumption licensing. The Jay Town Council passed one local law opting out of both cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licensing. The Enterprise regrets the error.