Southold Town Hall. The town board voted Tuesday to opt out of...

Southold Town Hall. The town board voted Tuesday to opt out of allowing retail marijuana dispensaries and commercial consumption sites in town. Credit: Randee Daddona

Southold has opted out of allowing retail marijuana dispensaries and commercial consumption sites in town.

The town board voted 5-1 to opt out at a special meeting Tuesday evening at Town Hall.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell, who voted for the measure to opt out, said after the vote the town should form a group to study the issue further. Some of the information they would seek includes impacts that other communities experience by opting into retail cannabis sales.

"The public should understand that opting out doesn’t mean that we’re opting out and walking away from the issue," Russell said. "It doesn’t mean that we’re close-minded and that we’re never willing to discuss the issue of retail in Southold Town or consumption sites in Southold Town."

Councilwoman Sarah Nappa was the only board member who voted against the measure. In a statement sent to Newsday Tuesday night after the vote, Nappa said opting out was "a cop-out" and Southold risks missing out on tax revenue from any cannabis delivery services that come to town if there are no retail marijuana rules in place.

"The state is giving municipalities until late 2022 or 2023 to work out the zoning details for this legislation before they issue licenses. Our time to put in the work as to where we want or don’t want retail and consumption is now," Nappa said. "I have been in government long enough to know that this is just kicking the can down the road and the work will not get done before the licenses are issued."

Councilwoman Jill Doherty, who voted to opt out, said with state rules still unclear on retail marijuana, the town had no guidance on how to create related zoning or other regulations.

"For me, there are too many unanswered questions that can’t be answered right now," Doherty said, "and until they can be answered, I want to give us time to do the right thing for the town. And when the town is ready to opt in, then we can."

While no one from the public spoke at the public hearing held shortly before the vote, nine letters were submitted for the record, seven of them asking the town to opt out, while two were in favor of not opting out.

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.

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