Esopus public hearing on allowing marijuana retail sales, smoking lounges to resume Dec. 2 – Daily Freeman

ULSTER PARK, N.Y. — A public hearing on whether to opt out of state law that would allow cannabis retail sales and smoking lounges has been held open by the Esopus Town Board.

The session will resume on Thursday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall, 1 Town Hall Way.

Officials have drafted a resolution that would opt out of both laws if adopted by Dec. 31, with Supervisor Jared Geuss contending that, previously, the community has seemingly not embraced opening cannabis-related businesses.

“The comprehensive plan, for all the outreach we did from 2019 on … (retail cannabis sales) was never brought up once by the community,” Geuss said. “I look at it … where I don’t see it fitting in the community and sustaining.”

During a Nov. 18 public hearing, there were 13 speakers with 10 opposed to allowing lounges and nine opposed to allowing retail sales.
Among concerns repeated during the session was that the character of the town would be altered.

“Esopus is a family-friendly place to live,” the Rev. Arthur Rojas said. “It is clean, it is beautiful, it’s safe … (but allowing) pot lounges sends a contradictory message to our children and our youth.”

Guytrell Johnson, executive director of Transformation Life Center in West Park, said the adverse effects of cannabis use should not be underestimated even if it has become legal to use the drug.

“I’ve been working in the (alcohol and drug treatment) field for about 13 years … and the majority of the people that I service started out by smoking marijuana,” he said. “The long-term effects on families could be detrimental.”

Support for having the town allow cannabis sales and lounges was largely based on the expectation there will be tax revenue, though several speakers considered fears about cannabis to be rooted in propaganda from the early and mid-20th century.

“It’s like we’re back in the 1950s with (the movie) ‘Reefer Madness’,” resident Patricia Lewis said. “People have a certain knee-jerk reaction that …

pot is awful.”

Lewis added that town officials need to recognize that there will be better control over the sale of cannabis.

“It’s replacing that illegal market and we’re bringing money in to fund social programs for substance abuse which have … been cut drastically in our area,” she said.

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