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Babylon Town opts in, by default, on recreational marijuana retail sales

Babylon Town Hall in Lindenhurst in 2020.

Babylon Town Hall in Lindenhurst in 2020. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Town of Babylon will allow recreational marijuana sales and consumption sites, opting in to the state legislation by default after the town board failed to get a majority vote on scheduling a public hearing on the issue.

The state law, which legalizes the growing and use of recreational marijuana for those 21 years and older, allows municipalities to prohibit sales and consumption sites but only if they pass a law to opt out by Dec. 31. If they don’t pass a law, they are automatically opting in to having the sites. A municipality that opts out can later opt in but once in, they cannot reverse course.

Last month the Babylon board voted on a resolution to schedule a public hearing on an opt-out law. The five-member vote resulted in two noes, two yeses and one abstention. Without a majority vote, the town cannot move forward with the hearing.

Just having a no vote during a town board meeting is a "unique thing," acknowledged Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer, who voted for the hearing. Because the head of the state’s Cannabis Control Board — which held its first meeting in October — said business licenses would likely not be granted until 2023, Schaffer said he felt the town should opt out for now.

"Since the [state] board was only just getting started I thought it would be better just to wait and see what they come up with as opposed to blowing this deadline and not being able to do anything later on," he said.

Board member Terence McSweeney also voted for the hearing, while DuWayne Gregory said he abstained because the consulting firm he works for deals with companies in the marijuana industry. Tony Martinez and Anthony Manetta voted no. Martinez declined to comment on his vote while Manetta said he didn’t want the town to "delay the inevitable" and instead take a proactive approach.

"For me it was, let’s start rolling up our sleeves and start digging into how we’re going to implement this in the town," he said. "Even if Albany doesn’t have all their ducks in a row, we can at least start to get ours."

Schaffer said the town is considering resolutions that would limit marijuana businesses to industrial areas and would ban marijuana smoking from public spaces such as parks and beaches.

In Suffolk, the only other town to opt in so far has been Riverhead. Smithtown, Islip, East Hampton and Shelter Island have voted to opt out. Schaffer, who also chairs the Suffolk County Town Supervisors Association, said that at a recent meeting Brookhaven and Southampton town leaders said they would be opting in, while Southold appears set to opt out. Huntington has a vote planned on an opt-out law, as do the three Nassau County towns.

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