TUSTEN, NY — The Tusten Town Board received a petition on December 6 for a referendum on cannabis legalization. The town board had voted at its November meeting to opt out of the statewide …
TUSTEN, NY — The Tusten Town Board received a petition on December 6 for a referendum on cannabis legalization. The town board had voted at its November meeting to opt out of the statewide program for licensing cannabis dispensaries and smoking lounges, effectively banning both within the town’s borders. The local laws that enacted the opt-out were subject to permissive referendum; if enough people signed a petition calling for a referendum, the town as a whole would get to vote on whether it wanted to allow the sale of cannabis.
With the petition filed, the town board met in a work session on December 7 to discuss it.
Ken Kline, the town’s counsel, said that he’d reviewed the petitions and that most of the language checked out. The one exception was an omission—there was no language in the petition asking for the town to call a special election.
Without that language, said Kline, the town board could not call a special election for the purpose of the cannabis referendum, and the question would be added to the regular election ballots in November 2022.
For a special election to be held, a new petition with the required language added would have to be circulated, signed and returned to the town by the original deadline, that being 45 days from the Tuesday, November 9 passage of the original law.
Board members discussed whether it would make a significant difference were the issue to be raised at a special election as opposed to a regular election.
A special election would take time to set up, said Kline. With required board deliberations, public hearings and other steps, the special election likely wouldn’t be held until June, only five months before the November general election, with the possibility that challenges to the process from those who opposed cannabis could delay that date even further. And holding a special election would cost the town much more than adding a provision to the ballot for the general election.
Even if a revised petition were to be submitted, the town board could choose not to hold a special election but instead to let the matter go to the general election, Kline added. The required language authorizes the board to call a special election, but it does not require the board to do so.
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