New head shop concerns some in Watertown

Updated: Mar. 1, 2021 at 5:00 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Religious and drug recovery leaders are saying ‘not in our neighborhood’ to a smoke shop that opened its doors last week. It’s the location of the store, and what it sells, that has stirred up concerns.

Just last week, the Royal Convenience & Smoke Shop on Watertown’s Factory Street opened up.

To some, it’s just another business. But to its next door neighbor, it’s more - and not in a good way.

“It’s the antithesis to the work we do here at the urban mission on many levels,” said Watertown Urban Mission Executive Director Dawn Cole.

Her organization serves community members in need of food, clothing, and in some cases resources for recovery.

“I understand the struggles with substance abuse. I’ve been there,” said Anthony Mathews, director or the mission’s Bridge Program.

Mathews has been in recovery for 3 decades. His goal is to keep people sober.

“With the shop next door, it’s going to make the job a little harder,” said.

Reverend Jeffery Smith from nearby First Baptist Church also has concerns.

“What it does is it entices and encourages drug use, and as a former drug addict, I know what those triggers are,” he said.

7 News spoke with the manager of the shop. He declined to comment and didn’t allow our cameras inside. Like any typical smoke shop, it sells things like vaping products. But what concerns the critics is a wall of smoking accessories that can be used for marijuana.

“While I understand there’s movement underway to legalize marijuana, you have to consider the placement of such an organization. One might argue that it’s set up to be rather predatory to the most vulnerable folks that can least afford to be preyed upon,” said Cole.

These people say lawmakers should change city zoning laws.

“Businesses like this would not be permitted in a more affluent area, and businesses like this area that is already impoverished even further to it’s knees,” said Anita Seefried-Brown, Alliance for Better Communities.

They’re reaching out to Watertown lawmakers to make their concerns known.

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