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Village puts off decision on pot

Cannabis dispensaries are still on the table in Fredonia, because of a tabling.

The Fredonia Board of Trustees put off voting on an “opt out” of the state’s placement of the pot stores Wednesday. Trustee Scott Johnston proposed tabling it for “further research,” and the other three board members unanimously agreed.

During a public hearing beforehand, the majority of the speakers wanted to allow dispensaries in the village, although several people spoke in favor of the opt out option. The village can still opt out until Dec. 31.

Marcia Johnson stated, “It is not in the interest of our community to opt out of this business opportunity. To begin, many local communities have already opted out, making the likelihood of success for our community more likely.”

She said that while revenue from marijuana sakes obviously cannot be ascertained yet, “the success of recreational marijuana in other states showcases that it could be very helpful to our budget.”

Johnson said that having dispensaries would lead to less sales of illegal substances. “The important thing to remember is that the law allows us to regulate how it is sold in the community. It will not be a free for all,” he said.

Jon Espersen, a Republican candidate for village trustee in November’s election, spoke in favor of opting out, though he said he was not necessarily for doing so permanently.

“What we need to do is look at what costs may be affiliated with opting in. Do we need to hire a part time police officer, do we need to hire a mental health coordinator? We don’t know,” he said.

Catherine Elder, who moved here from Massachusetts, warned there were virtually riots there when their dispensaries opened. Another result of people flocking to them was that there were massive parking problems, she said.

“There is a misconception that somehow marijuana is not in our community. What we have right now is illegal marijuana. What we have is an opportunity to have legal, regulated and safer marijuana,” said Susan Parker, a county Legislature candidate. She backed an idea Johnson mentioned, about forming a task force of community members to monitor legal marijuana in the village. Parker, too, noted the village can regulate many aspects of the sales.

After three more people spoke — two against opting out, one for — another village trustee hopeful, Democrat Greg Krauza, took the microphone. He said the village should look at any possible way to grow its tax base. Krauza added this is an opportunity for safety regulations, such as a limit on THC levels.

“By opting out, we’re not preventing people from bringing and consuming cannabis in the village limits,” he said.

Bill Moran had perhaps the most colorful statements.

He spoke of “these myths that we have to put behind us of so many years that have been ingrained in the society. Cannabis is here, it’s been here 50 years or more.

“I can tell you from experience,” he went on. “I spent a night in a jail. Dunkirk, 1973, my wife and I. The Honorable Judge August Jankowski, blind, asked who my father was and how much land he owned before he passed judgment. I was looking at a Class D felony under the get-tough Rockefeller laws. … I did get myself expunged but I’ve suffered a lot over the course of time.”

Moran concluded, “How many liquor stores do you have in town? How many bars? Let people have their smoke if they desire.”

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