Goshen Councilman Philip Canterino was in the hospital when the Town Board held its first public hearing on July 8 on the the prospect of legal marijuana enterprises in the town.
The board was deadlocked on the question, and no vote was taken.
That appeared to authorize by default the establishment of marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites as permitted by a new state law.
However, Canterino was adamant when he left the hospital that an official vote for taken on the issue. “I wanted to make sure that everybody was on the record,” he said.
Canterino’s vote was enough on Aug. 26 for a 3-2 approval of a local law opting out of the state law. He was joined by Supervisor Douglas Bloomfield and Councilman George Lyons. Councilmen Kenneth Newbold and Richard Florio voted against the opt-out.
Supporters of the opt-out were concerned about the possible status of marijuana as a “gateway” drug. Opponents were mindful of its legal status and the possible economic impact of new businesses.
Canterino said that he was not opposed to medical marijuana, but he did not think recreational use of the drug would be good for the town. He said that while he was in the hospital, he talked to medical personnel who advised him to vote against it.
He also relayed an account from a New York City drug treatment professional who said he had asked a group of about 30 heroin and opioid users whether they had used marijuana first. All had.
Bloomfield was concerned by the impact of the drug on families. He said that the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado, the first state to take that step, “had not been a pretty sight.”
The supervisor also pointed out that most nearby communities such as the villages of Chester and Goshen and the City of Middletown had opted out. He was concerned that allowing the businesses in the town could prompt an influx of marijuana users from its neighbors.
Meanwhile, Florio said marijuana “is going to be around forever so why not take advantage” of the tax revenues that the town could receive from its use.
He acknowledges that marijuana might lead to the use of more harmful drugs in the case of some people but said that “we all have to take careful of ourselves.”
‘Where we all the others?’
Bloomfield said that eight people attended the second hearing on the issue, but Goshen has a population of 8,000. “Where were all the others?” he asked. He said that he had talked to enough people to conclude that the great majority of Goshen town residents were against marijuana businesses in the town.
In any case, he pointed out that the town’s decision was not the last word. State law permits an up or down referendum on the board’s decision. Scheduling such a referendum in Goshen’s case would require a petition within 45 days of the law’s enactment signed by 491 residents – 10 percent of the voters in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
The town’s action spurning marijuana businesses does not affect provisions of the law allowing personal use of the drug and growing it in the home.
See related story on page 11.