By Andrew Harris
The thirty-day window that state law provides village of Wellsville voters to challenge the governments decision to opt-out of retail cannabis sales and consumption lounges is about to close.
On November 22nd, the Village of Wellsville voted to pass a local law which forbids retail dispensaries or consumption lounges from operating in the village. Activists and potential investors challenged the decision and began working within the law to force a public referendum on the subject. In order to force this “Reeferendum,” petitions would need to be circulated, signed, witnessed, and submitted to the village clerk within a month.
As the main instigator of the petition process, I’m sorry to report that the vote isn’t going to happen. The failing of the effort is primarily due to my lack of understanding the process from the onset. While my business interest was in the village, my voter registration is in the town. My enthusiasm was quickly tempered when my lawyer, Ed Pekarek of the Pekarek Law Group in Wellsville, educated me on the permissive referendum statute.
Only registered voters of the Village of Wellsville may sign the petition or ask others to sign the petition. Many village voters did participate, signed petitions, and asked fellow voters to sign in support off referendum. Hundreds of village voters signed petitions, but not enough to meet the legal requirements. The privilege of petition in this case demands twenty percent of the registered voters in the village, which is about 515 signatures.
You might wonder why you didn’t get a chance to sign a petition? That answer is clearly Covid-19 and how that complicates the canvassing process. The process of going door to door is a much different animal during a pandemic, let during a surge of infections that has acutely impacted Wellsville. Roaming the village, visiting homes with clipboards, was never in the cards. This is a very important subject, but I certainly wasn’t going to be responsible for even one person getting sick in the process.
Many thanks to those who signed, asked others to sign, and refused to perpetuate the stigma often referred to as “reefer madness.” At least in the village of Wellsville, the legend lives on….
But not in the Town of Wellsville. Deputy Supervisor Patty Graves told the Wellsville Sun back in September:
““I would recommend putting in place a town local law or rule, where they can be located and hours of operation,” Graves said. “Simply put, marijuana is here and it’s not going away. We might as well accept it. Am I personally using it? No. But I would recommend putting into place reasonable guidelines.”
Since that time the town of Wellsville has not acted to opt out of legal cannabis, and the timeline for doing indicates the town will allow retail sales and consumption lounges.
The concept of my potential investment, The Highlands Cannabis Cooperative, was never dependent on the village of Wellsville. As a resident of the town of Wellsville, I’ve already started working on alternate business plans. I expect many cannabis related entrepreneurs to emerge in Wellsville and other pro-business towns like Cuba, Alfred, Scio, Andover, and Bolivar. I hope to have the chance to work with them and move into the future and all the possibilities this magic plant provides.
So while the battle was lost in the village of Wellsville, the war will be certainly be won in the hills around the village, much to the detriment of the already beleaguered village taxpayer. I urge all village residents and business owners to continue to demand access to the marketplace in the village. The village government can repeal their prohibition at any time, but the longer they wait, the more investment dollars like mine will land elsewhere.
Fellow entrepreneurs, the Town of Wellsville is full of great places to grow, process, and retail cannabis. An industry that is a lot like wineries, distilleries, and breweries is about to explode and I hope to help that benefit every taxpayer in the Town of Wellsville. Stay tuned to the WellsvilleSun.com for more news on this emerging industry and follow The Highlands Cannabis Cooperative on Facebook to discuss the opportunities ahead.