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Odessa discusses marijuana options

ODESSA--Odessa Mayor Gerry Messmer hosted a presentation on the legalization of marijuana in the state, and what it means to the village of Odessa, Tuesday, Aug. 24. Along with explaining to attendants, both in-person and virtual, the new law Messmer also set the stage for how the village will determine whether or not the sale will be permitted within village limits.
"That is the most people we have ever had for any open hearing in the village," Messmer said after the meeting. "I thought it was very good, there were a lot of questions, a lot of concerns, but I think a lot of jaded concerns from misconceptions. I think we cured some of those, pleased to see the large turnout and hope the next one is even bigger."
One important point brought up repeatedly during the meeting is regardless of whether Odessa or any municipality opts in or opts out, marijuana is legal for adults 21 and over to use or grow on their property in New York. The local decisions being made now only affect dispensaries in the jurisdiction. Opting out does not prevent marijuana use in any way above the state guidelines.
While the deadline for the decision is Dec. 31, Messmer said the board will pass a temporary law prior to the deadline in November and then alter it as needed depending on the results of the vote in March.
"We don't want to be automatically opted in by the state with no decision by the 31st... and I think this is an important enough issue that residents should vote, not boards," Messmer added.
This means Odessa would opt out in November but the village-wide vote in the spring would set the ruling from that point forward.
"We could have an earlier vote but with so many legal loopholes the timing would not work... Our election cycle runs from March to March... and if we opt out we can always opt back in later," Messmer mentioned during the meeting.
The meeting, which was well attended both virtually and in person, was at times contentious. One individual who identified as a business owner used profanity to discuss the new law and its stance on employment and marijuana usage.
Messmer reiterated that the state ruling is not up for debate or change, only the local position on dispensaries.
Messmer added no one can discriminate against someone who uses or grows marijuana.
"You can have a smoke-free policy (on-premises), but you can't discriminate. It's like cigarettes," Messmer commented.
Messmer went on to say that the decision to allow or not allow the sale of marijuana in the village is a tough one. To help with that process Messmer said the town will hold another forum on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. which will include a panel of local stakeholders.
"This one is going to be a panel, representatives from police to talk about the law enforcement impact, SCOPED to talk about economics, we will have a potential dispensary owner there to take questions and may have more," stated Messmer.
Messmer added it was very important to him that residents of Odessa have all the facts they need to vote with confidence on the matter. He also said at the beginning of the meeting this forum was unique to the village as other municipalities have indicated they will decide only with or through their respective boards.

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