The Village of Dobbs Ferry will hold a special election on Tuesday, March 21, regarding whether to allow licensed retail adult-use cannabis dispensaries in the village. Voting will take place from 6 a.m.-9 p.m.
In what is called a permissive referendum, residents will decide whether to reverse the village board’s December 2022 unanimous decision to “opt in,” permitting licensed dispensaries. That decision reversed the village board’s November 2021 decision to opt out of allowing dispensaries by a vote of 4-3. Between the two votes, three members of the board changed.
To opt in, the village board has to amend Article 141-3 of its code, the retail dispensary opt-out. The board would also need to amend the code to allow dispensaries in any of the four zones being considered: Downtown Business (Cedar Street and Main Street, south to just beyond Chestnut Street), Waterfront B (145 Palisade Street), Downtown Gateway (the intersection of Ashford Avenue and Broadway), and Chauncey Park (at Rivertowns Square).
To force a permissive referendum, a petition must be filed with the village clerk for verification of names, after which the petition is turned over to the Westchester County Board of Elections for further examination, before that entity schedules a special election. To qualify for a referendum, a petition must contain 20 percent of the names of registered voters in the village, who voted in the last election. According to Village Clerk Liz Dreaper, 1,517 signatures were needed and 1,555 were verified.
The Rockefeller Institute of Government’s Marijuana Opt-Out online tracker for counties outside of New York City shows that 754 of the state’s 1,520 municipalities opted out of permitting retail dispensaries. Separately, 877 municipalities opted out of allowing consumption sites. The state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) confirmed that they consider the Institute’s numbers valid.
According to the tracker, last updated on Feb. 16, Dobbs Ferry is the only Westchester County municipality holding a referendum so far.
The OCM also clarified that the State does not have an unlimited number of licenses to award. The number of licenses for adult-use retail dispensaries was initially planned for 150; last week the State increased that number to 300; the agency had received 900 applications for the first spots.
In a municipality with a population of under 20,000 — Dobbs Ferry’s population is roughly 11,000 — a dispensary must maintain a 2,000-foot radius from another dispensary. In addition, dispensaries must be 500 feet from schools, and 200 feet from houses of worship.
Aaron Ghitelman, deputy director of communications for the OCM, told the Enterprise on March 10, “If Dobbs Ferry decides not to opt back in, there always will be future opportunities, as the State’s cannabis market matures, for the Village to opt back in and allow for adult-use dispensaries to operate.”
On March 21, voting will take place at the high school (Districts 13, 16), the public library (Districts 15, 80), village hall (District 14), Ogden Engine Company (Districts 12, 17, 65), and Springhurst Elementary School (District 58).
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