Watertown City Council opts-out of law approving retail sale of cannabis

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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Watertown lawmakers voted to prohibit the retail sale of cannabis on Monday night.

Watertown City Council held a public hearing on Proposed Local law No. 1 of 2021. Which is a Local Law adopted pursuant to Cannabis Law §131, opting out of licensing and establishing retail cannabis dispensaries and on-site cannabis consumption establishments in Watertown.

Dozens of city residents attended the public meeting and voiced concerns and opinions in both support and opposition to the Law.

One of the most touched on talking points in support, was ensuring the sale of “safe” cannabis, and avoiding drugs laced with additional substances such as fentanyl.

However, according to Councilwoman Lisa Ruggiero, the council had previously received several emails requesting the vote on this law, be public. Ruggiero added, that to allow for this, the Council would be required to opt-out initially.

Ruggiero also then brought up data from other states that have legalized recreational cannabis regarding an increase in crime rate, black market sales and rise in house fires due to at-home marijuana growing.

“It’s not an easy decision,” stated Ruggiero. “We can see both sides of it very well. I think that people made good points on both sides. The opting out part allows people to start the legal petition process so that it can be on the ballot. I think that that is, to me, I don’t see any problem with that.”

Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith added: “I do think that being cautious and giving pause is a good approach. I do also think that my colleagues, and the points made tonight, if it goes on the ballot then people can have that option to vote. That’s the best way to do it.”

Mayor Smith then voted to opt-out of Local Law No. 1 of 2021, as did the majority of Watertown City Council.

This resulted in the disapproval of all retail cannabis dispensaries within the city limits until a petition is formed and a public vote is held. This was voted on July 19, 2021 at Watertown City Hall.

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