ENFIELD, N.Y.—On Wednesday, Nov. 10, the Enfield Town Board voted to hold a public hearing on whether to opt out of allowing the sale of marijuana in Enfield. The public hearing will take place at the Town Board’s December meeting, which should be on Dec. 8. 

Much of the discussion focused on the specificities of what the decision would entail, since if Enfield opts out, which requires adopting a local law that is subject to permissive referendum, the town can choose to opt back in at a later date. If Enfield chooses not to opt out by the deadline of Dec. 31 or does nothing, it will not have a second chance to forbid the sale of marijuana, which was legalized by the state of New York in March 2021. 

Councilperson Robert Lynch, who drafted the local law to opt out, described opting out as an insurance policy for the town, since the town is able to change its mind later.

“If we opt out now, come March, come April, and we decide that the regulations the state has put in place are not going to harm us, we can opt back in, people can petition for a public referendum and they can opt us back in by their votes,” Lynch said, “but if we opt out now, we’re just basically protecting our own interests and giving us the chance to think about it.”

Enfield Town Supervisor Stephanie Redmond shared a presentation outlining the impact marijuana might have on the state. She said there will be a 13 percent sales tax on the marijuana sold at dispensaries, with roughly two-thirds of the revenue going to the state and the remaining third being shared locally- a fourth of that share being sent to the county and the remaining three-fourths being divided among municipalities based on local sales. Redmond said municipalities that opt out of sales will not receive any revenue, but if Enfield does participate, it is unlikely to receive any money until 2023.

Ellen Woods, who attended and spoke at the meeting described herself as “agnostic” on the subject of marijuana, but warned that underage people will gain access to marijuana.

“I think we all know that tobacco finds its way into the hands of people under 21, or under 18,” Woods said. “Whatever the law is, these products are going to be around.”

According to Woods, some dispensaries in California and Oregon have armed guards stationed at them, since there is a real threat of people trying to rob them.

“This isn’t just the Summer of Love,” Woods said. “There is like a crime element where people do rob dispensaries, that kind of thing.”

Woods cautioned the board against being overly optimistic about cannabis’ medical qualities and treating it as a “panacea” able to cure cancer or other such ailments

Nancy Spero said that cannabis has long had medicinal value, but the fact that it has been illegal for so long has hindered efforts to study its medicinal properties.

The discussion also concerned whether marijuana is comparable to alcohol in terms of its effects on the user, especially when it comes to impairing drivers. Ellen Woods pointed out that Enfield’s past had a link between alcohol consumption and motor vehicle accidents.

“In the past there used to be a bar on every corner in Enfield,” Woods said, “and when there was a bar on every corner in Enfield, there was an auto accident every weekend in Enfield, most of them with serious injuries.”

Currently, Enfield has no bars—only the Hillside golf course, which has a liquor license—and Woods believes that the decline in establishments that serve alcohol has reduced the number of auto accidents.

Redmond disagreed with Woods, pointing out that Enfield is not stopping additional bars from opening in the town. She argued that marijuana should not be regulated differently from alcohol.

“If we’re going to allow on-site consumption of alcohol, then I do believe we should allow for on-site consumption of marijuana,” Redmond said. 

Redmond mentioned that she has long pushed for the creation of an economic development committee, and this issue may be a good starting point for the committee to examine possible laws or regulations. She noted that prohibition of marijuana has caused more harm than good.

“I feel like it’s torn apart families, it’s ruined lives, it’s ruined economic situations for a lot of people, put people in prison for decades for a plant that has medicinal properties, and caused a lot of hardship,” Redmond said. “And I see these dispensaries as being something that remediates that situation. The revenues from these dispensaries go directly to remediating a lot of these issues, and I think it’s only fair to allow this to go forward in a way that I feel like would be healthy for our community.”

Councilperson Jude Lemke stressed that the vote was not a final decision to opt out, since the town had to hold a public hearing before it could vote to opt out, and Lemke wanted the language of the local law to express that.

“I don’t view this as a final action,” Lemke said. “We have a deadline that we have to comply with to keep our options open, and that is to opt out by December 31, but I don’t view that as a final decision.”

Other Decisions

  • The board voted to adopt its 2021 budget, which can be read here.
  • The board rejected a vaccine mandate/weekly testing policy for all employees.
  • The board passed a resolution calling for the Town Board of Enfield, Tompkins County, New York to communicate to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs its concern for the  wellbeing of the Cayuga nation people in the light of recent events that suggest their safety may be threatened. The resolution is in response to a leadership dispute in the Cayuga Nation, during which time Clint Halftown, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ designated federal representative, ordered 12 buildings in the Cayuga residents’ community hub demolished on February 22, 2020.
  • The board voted to hold a public hearing for the Drinking Water Protection Law at its January meeting, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, January 12.