By Alice E. Gerard
The Grand Island Town Board, by a 3-2 vote at its Nov. 1 meeting, enacted local law 13, opting out of allowing cannabis on-site consumption sites in the municipality. The town has the option, in the future, of reversing that decision and opting to permit cannabis on-site facilities to operate on Grand Island. At this point, according to Town Board member Mike Madigan, the town does not intend to opt out of permitting dispensaries to open and operate in the town, which he said, “will automatically occur at this point.”
At a public hearing on the proposed local ordinance, three residents spoke in favor of opting out. Jim Mulcahy said, “If some other community wants to be the group that does this, let them. We should at least find out what the risks are, what sort of rules would make sense if we decide to go forward with this. If we opt in right now, we’ve lost that option.”
Sandra Englert, who said she is speaking as a registered nurse and nurse educator and as a resident, said her recommendations come from a personal and professional perspective: “I strongly support an ordinance to ban on-site consumption facilities and to opt out of that provision of the state cannabis law.” She said her concerns were focused on “public safety, individual health and public health.” She acknowledged cannabis use is legal in New York state, but she expressed concern that “on-site consumption in the town would send a message that this activity is acceptable.”
Jay Englert said, “I raised three great kids. I kept them off drugs. I have five grandkids, four of whom live on the Island. Just because our government doesn’t live within its means, we look for every kind of avenue to pick up some tax money. This is crazy. I’m all for opting out.”
Town Board members shared conflicting opinions on the issue.
Madigan, who spoke in favor of opting out, said he is concerned about the use of cannabis.
“Cannabis is not like what cannabis was when we were kids,” he noted. “It’s different. It’s stronger, and it’s getting more potent. I’ve known people who have never hit that rock bottom, and they drank themselves to death or did drugs to death. We should discourage it where ever possible.”
Jenn Baney said, “I’m coming from a place where I’m not excited about a dispensary being here for my own personal benefit. In our home, we don’t drink or use recreational drugs. In this state, where this is now legal, I can’t advocate for a scenario where our children or young adults would be more likely to get something that’s not regulated or using it in a park or while driving.” She said she didn’t see any benefit in opting out.
Pete Marson Jr. said the town needs more time to make a decision about cafés that permit on-site cannabis use: “I don’t think that we’re close to making a decision on what is right for Grand Island. There’s a lot of zoning to be considered with that. If we’re going to allow it, where are we going to drive it? My question to the board is what will it do to neighboring businesses?”