By John Anderson, 11/9/21
After a public hearing on opting in or opting out of having marijuana dispensaries in the village of Wellsville, trustees decided to revisit the issue again at the Nov. 22 meeting.
The village has until Dec. 31 to vote to opt-out. There is an option not to vote as well, which would be an automatic opt-in.
Of the Wellsville residents who spoke at a 30-minute public hearing Monday night, seven were in favor of opting in, three wanted to opt-out.
Attorney Ed Pekarek, who lives in the village, presented a 304-page report he prepared to the village board as hard copy and as PDF’s. He showed a report from the New York State Department of Health study that said “the positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in New York State out-weight the potential negative effects. Cause of concern can be mitigated.” He also pointed out there were revenues of $128 million in Colorado from legal marijuana sales.
Pekarek then quoted the rock band Rush and said, “If you chose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” He added, “There is no requirement to make a motion, there is no requirement to make a second, there is no requirement to make a vote.”
Pekarek said through zoning, Wellsville could not only make a large profit, but take illegal drugs off the streets.
“Last week, I went to a fundraiser for the senator and it was at an estabilishment that sells intoxicants, it was at the Ellicottville Brewery,” Pekarek said. “Because of the detour on I-86, we had to take some back roads. And there were three dispensaries, and one was being operated out of someone’s house. This group could control time, place and matter through zoning. This group can take the money out of the black market and into the legal market.”
Angela Graves, a political scientist with a doctorate and specializes in law policy and is a college professor, said she was interested in decriminalization of marijuana and criminal justice reform when, “I found out we spent a trillion dollars on the war on drugs between the 1970’s and present day and it had zero effect on drug usage.”
She said she applauded the board for understanding marijuana is legal in New York like alcohol.
“On policy making, I have studied state and local policy for years and I’ve been on town boards and planning boards and I want to understand how this works. The primary rationale is ‘if we opt-out now, we can opt-in later’ but I want to know the decision making behind that,” Graves said. “I’ve heard concerns with New York regulations taking place, but I would love to be involved in figuring out what that looks like for Wellsville in order for everyone to feel comfortable.
“I would actually request for that timeline, an outline of the process and a sunset date. When would you like to reconsider opting in? My fear is, if not, this is just a ruse for NIMBYism, ‘not in my backyard’ and as long as that is the case, marijuana is being sold in every town in America including Wellsville and that will not change,” Graves added. “We do not want to be a black market zone as we see all of these economic opportunities unfold around us.”
Wellsville resident Tracy Valentine said it would be good for people to have a store to purchase marijuana who are dealing with depression and anxiety.
“We could do this and make jobs for people … Wellsville is kind of sliding down the tubes right now, please consider opting in,” Valentine said.
Village resident Dan Graves showed his medical marijuana card and said his dispensary is in Amherst. He said from January to November he has spent $4,200 for legal marijuana.
He did not believe in opting out now and opting in later, and said, “If you opt out, you are not considering back-street dealers in Wellsville. Whether you opt-out or opt-in, people are going to have to go buy it or get it here.”
David Williams, a resident for 40 years said he strongly opposes the distribution and consumption areas in the community.
“Obviously marijuana is legal and we are not debating if it is legal, and I would not deny someone who has a medical need access to it. As a teacher in the public schools I have seen the effects of marijuana on our kids,” Williams said.
Bill Merry, a Wellsville resident, had two reports from the internet he said that showed Colorado was not happy with legalizing marijuana. He talked about heavy marijuana use and said the village should not encourage it. He said keep it away from kids and said it’s dangerous.
Gary Barnes, a Wellsville resident and Allegany County Legislator said he does not want to see it in the village or town of Wellsville. He said to “opt-out and try to opt-in if needed a year from now or 10 years from now.” He said he did not know about the negative effects of marijuana or the positive effects but said, “I am firmly opposed to it.”
Erica Brundage, a 25-year resident of Wellsville said she did not think the board has looked at facts and is going to base a vote on fear.
“I am employed, I own two homes, I work for the state, my husband works for the county and we have some marijuana and have never broken any laws smoking or eating it. People believe it’s bad people doing bad things,” Brundage said. “It doesn’t behove us at all to pass on this economic opportunity. Look around you, we are really struggling. We need the tax dollars. It’s our responsibility to build a strong economy for our children and our future. “
Bob Garrison, a Wellsville resident since 1979, said, “This seems like a no-brainer, especially to Republicans. It brings in money. If you are worried about kids in school using marijuana, it’s true, but alcohol is in this community. How many stores sell alcohol? The same bad things you talk about with marijuana happen with alcohol. The same people will be here if you opt-in. Republicans need to do what Republicans do, make money on it.”
Wellsville resident Carole Garrison said she was a forensic scientist for the New York State Police and has seen both sides of the issue.
“People die everyday in this country from alcohol overdose, you can not die from marijuana overdose, it just does not happen,” she said. “I know you want to wait to see if the state gets their act together (before opting in) but I hope when you do, you approve it because other towns around us will opt-in before we do.”