Marijuana sales will be legal within Southampton Town after officials declined to opt out of allowing retail and consumption establishments before the state’s year-end deadline for municipalities.
Supervisor Jay Schneiderman has repeatedly said that if Southampton were to opt out of pot sales, marijuana would still be available for sale within the township on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation — but the town would not get the tax revenue. The tribe has publicly said it will move forward with recreational sales.
Schneiderman estimates sales could bring in $1 million to $2 million in tax revenue annually for the town.
"It wasn’t clear to me that we were opting out of anything other than the money that could be used to address mental health issues or drug addiction," Schneiderman said in an interview Tuesday.
Under the state’s marijuana legalization law, municipalities have until Dec. 31 to opt out or they are permanently opted in by default. Municipalities can opt in at any time but once opted in, they cannot reverse that decision.
The towns of East Hampton, Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Huntington, Islip, Shelter Island, North Hempstead and Smithtown have opted out of the legislation. Riverhead officials narrowly voted to opt in, and Brookhaven and Babylon towns both opted in, as did Southampton, either by failing to schedule a public hearing or deciding not to take a vote on the matter.
The cities of Glen Cove and Long Beach opted out of the legislation. Southold is the last town to vote on whether or not to allow sales and onsite consumption, which the board is scheduled to do Tuesday.
About 1,000 people responded to Southampton Town’s online survey and were mostly in favor of allowing sales, Schneiderman said. Fewer people were in favor of allowing consumption lounges, although those who supported them still constituted the majority of respondents, he said.
The town board will next consider where to allow sales or consumption under town zoning, Schneiderman said. Questions will arise over whether to only allow marijuana sales in light-industrial zones, in busy downtowns or somewhere in between.
"Do we want to treat it in the way cigarettes and alcohol are treated or do we want to treat it as a societal ill that has to be kept away from as many people as possible?" he said.
David Falkowski, who owns Open Minded Organics hemp and mushroom farm in Bridgehampton, applauded the town’s decision to move forward with marijuana sales. He noted that Southampton, along with Riverhead and Brookhaven towns, will form a contiguous block where marijuana sales are permitted in Suffolk County, which he said can create economic opportunity.
"A lot of the country is ahead of us on this," Falkowski said. "The first round is really the best place for people to get in at ground level and make something of this."