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Middletown to ban marijuana stores and consumption sites

Times Herald-Record logo Times Herald-Record 6 days ago Chris McKenna, Times Herald-Record
a close up of a busy city street: City of Middletown © ELAINE RUXTON/TIMES HERALD-RECORD FILE PHOTO City of Middletown

MIDDLETOWN - City aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday night to ban marijuana stores and consumption sites, making Middletown one of the first communities in Orange County to embrace an option given to all municipalities under the state law that legalized recreational marijuana this year.

Mayor Joseph DeStefano put the proposal to the Common Council last month, saying he was more concerned about pot-smoking lounges in the city's downtown area than about the state-licensed dispensaries that could open, once the state writes its regulations. The city held its required public hearing on the proposed ban on June 15.

Aldermen who spoke before voting pointed out they could lift the ban later after seeing how the regulations and licensing play out. They argued that was the most prudent approach to take, since municipalities can opt in at any time but can't opt out after Dec. 31.

"We can wait a few months, let the dust settle," Alderman Paul Johnson said.

The City of Middletown has voted to ban marijuana stores and consumption sites, making it one of the first communities in Orange County to embrace an option given to all municipalities under the state law that legalized pot this year. Municipalities can opt in at any time but can't opt out after Dec. 31. © THE ASSOCIATED PRESS The City of Middletown has voted to ban marijuana stores and consumption sites, making it one of the first communities in Orange County to embrace an option given to all municipalities under the state law that legalized pot this year. Municipalities can opt in at any time but can't opt out after Dec. 31.

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He doubted the hold would cost the city business opportunities. But he also questioned one of the economic arguments for legalization in New York and other states: the idea that steering licenses to Black and Latino entrepreneurs could help make up for years of marijuana arrests that disproportionately affected their communities.

"I find that to be condescending," Johnson said. "I don't see the logic in that at all."

Alderman Gerald Kleiner said he had initially opposed banning marijuana businesses and supported having gathering places where friends could smoke pot or eat products made with it.

But he also supported allowing residents to decide through a referendum whether to permit such businesses, which the passage of the ban enables them to do. Ban opponents must collect 1,100 petition signatures within 45 days to force a vote on the issue.

"I think I do want to let the people decide, if they're really that motivated," Kleiner said.

Earlier in the meeting, DeStefano pitched the ban as a safe course that can later be reversed, calling that "a winning argument with most reasonable people." He also said he would lobby state lawmakers to seek an amendment to the legalization law to restrict public consumption of marijuana, which is now allowed in places where tobacco can be smoked.

Middletown appears to be the second Orange County municipality to opt out after the village of Chester's vote to do so on July 12. Two other boards – the village of Woodbury and town of Goshen – have proposed and rejected bans on marijuana businesses. Others have taken up similar proposals but haven't voted yet. The Crawford Town Board has held hearings on two nights and scheduled a third and a likely vote next week.

The prohibitions apply only to dispensaries and consumption sites within a municipality and not to the possession and consumption of marijuana, which is now legal statewide and not subject to local decisions. Under the law, people over 21 can possess up to three ounces of pot or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis such as vaping oil or edibles. 

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Middletown to ban marijuana stores and consumption sites

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