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Half of Watertown council candidates support marijuana dispensaries in city

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 5:47 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Watertown lawmakers are taking the first step to ban marijuana dispensaries in the city, and those first moves are drawing criticism from some candidates running in the primary next week.

We spoke with nearly all of the 10 candidates running for a council seat. Five of them say that opting out of marijuana sales would be a mistake.

Candidate Doug Rice says city residents will travel to neighboring areas to get the legal marijuana if it is not sold within the city of Watertown.

“The eventuality is going to be that someone else is going to do it, our taxpayers in the city down the road,” he said.

Council appeared poised to opt out at a work session earlier this week, asking City Manager Ken Mix to draft a local law that would ban the shops within city limits.

“As of right now, what we were presented with in terms of information, other communities that have done this, if they had to do it again, they wouldn’t,” said Mayor Jeff Smith.

He says that all of the council members indicated, based on the same information at the work session, that they were leaning towards the decision of opting out.

It’s a decision that Rice and 4 others running for council don’t agree with.

Two of those candidates came forward to say that the city will be missing out in different ways.

“I think one way or another, you know, it’s legal, why shouldn’t we get tax money and tax advantage for it,” said Patrick Hickey, candidate.

“With fentanyl getting into marijuana now, whether it be accidental or it’s intentional, we didn’t have to worry about that with a place that is run by the folks and it’s very strict,” said Cliff Olney.

Candidates Aaron Clemons and Jason Traynor also say they also oppose opting out.

Candidates Michelle Capone and incumbent Lisa Ruggiero say they are leaning towards opting out while Robert Schorr, Amy Horton and Ben Shoen are undecided.

However, if the city goes in this direction, residents have a chance to get a petition signed and put this to a vote.

The city has until December 31 to pass the local law and does have the option to opt back in at a future date.

Smith says they hope to see a draft of the local law at a meeting in July, but a public hearing will need to be had before the law can be voted on.

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