Town of Goshen will allow marijuana shops while Village of Chester opts out

Goshen. No specific business has approached the town; the Village of Goshen has taken no action while the Town of Chester plans to convene a citizens panels.

| 14 Jul 2021 | 03:46

With little fanfare, Goshen town officials have decided to permit marijuana shops to operate in the town.

Meanwhile, the Chester Village Board has voted to opt out, at least for the time being, of a new state law that would have allowed licensed cannabis dispensaries and consumption sites within the village.

Under the law, cities, towns and villages must decide by Dec. 31 whether to allow either or both dispensaries and consumption sites. Municipalities that opt out now can change their decisions later, however.

Goshen’s Town Board went into a July 8 public hearing with three of five members – Supervisor Douglas Bloomfield and Councilmen Philip Canterino and George Lyons – leaning toward opting out of commercial marijuana sales although “we were not dead set one way or another,” Bloomfield said.

The board members were swayed by those who spoke at the sparsely attended public hearing. Only one town resident supported the opt-out while six opposed it, including two senior citizens who argued that the town would benefit from the tax revenues the new business would bring.

Police chief concerned about the impact on traffic law enforcement

The board didn’t even take a vote on the proposed opt-out law. Bloomfield said that “the whole thing was anticlimactic” since the governor and the state Legislature had already approved the legalization of recreational marijuana.

In any case, Canterino was absent, and “I didn’t have the votes,” he said,

Bloomfield said that Police Chief James McDowell was “very much concerned” by the impact of the new business on traffic law enforcement. Police chiefs and district attorneys throughout the state have warned that there is no quick, efficient reliable method to detect drivers’ marijuana intoxication.

McDowell did not speak at the public hearing but said that he had urged board members to opt out for the moment and let other municipalities take the lead.

“Let’s see how it develops,” he said. “It’s just too new.”

Meanwhile, in Chester

Five people spoke at a July 12 Chester public hearing, three supporting commercial marijuana sales and two saying the village should opt out of the law.

Gordon Shehab, one of the opt-out supporters, came armed with research that he said shows a surge in fatal motor vehicle accidents after Colorado legalized recreational use of marijuana.

He said in an interview that he also observed that the life of a relative had been “completely destroyed” by marijuana use in the 1960s and 1970s when he said the drug was more powerful.

After the hearing, the board voted 4-0, without comment, to opt out of the state law. Mayor John Thomas Bell was absent.

Susan Bahren, a former Chester village mayor, said she opposed opting out for “purely economic reasons.”

The Village of Goshen has taken no action on the opt-out option. The Town of Chester, plans to convene a citizens panels to consider the issues involved.

No specific business in Goshen

Municipalities have no power to opt out of the provisions of the new law that permit the possession by those at least 21 years old of up to three ounces of marijuana, the equivalent of 50 to 75 joints, (or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis) or the growing of marijuana at their homes.

Bloomfield said that no one has approached the town about opening up a marijuana shop. It will be some time, well into 2022, before the state writes the regulations and establishes an enforcement mechanism necessary before the businesses can get going.