City of North Kingstown officials still weighing options on the future of marijuana | New

NORTH KINGSTOWN, RI — A majority of North Kingstown City Council favors letting voters decide whether recreational marijuana can be sold legally in town. But, unlike their counterparts in Narragansett and South Kingstown, the final decision on a possible referendum has yet to be officially made.

Republican City Council member Mary Brimer said she really wants voters to make the call as two fellow Democrats like the idea of ​​sending the issue to the Nov. 8 ballot citywide , but they will not commit to doing so.

“I will vote to send this to NK voters to decide in November,” said Brimer, one of two republics on the Democratic-controlled five-member council. A new state law gives city voters the right to reject local sales that will be allowed without their decision.

Two of his fellow Democrats on the panel were less adamant, using words like “leaning toward” or “inclined to” let voters decide, but stopped short of a commitment like Brimer did.

Democrat Katie Anderson said, “I generally lean towards making it a ballot and letting the voters decide. “Council Speaker Greg Mancini said he was ‘inclined’ for voters to make the decision.

He and Anderson said they wanted more information on the effects of the choice before committing.

Democrat Kim Page and Republican Kerry McKay did not respond to emails from The Independent to gauge their feelings about giving voters the choice directly.

A recent informal social media survey of some city residents indicated a strong desire for voters to make the decision rather than the city council.

Without a ballot, stores will be permitted under current state law to sell in the city provided they meet all state and local requirements. Governor Dan McKee signed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act on May 25.

It legalizes and regulates recreational cannabis by requiring state-issued licenses for its cultivation, manufacturing, laboratory testing, and retail sale.

It allows legal possession of up to one ounce for personal use by persons 21 years of age or older, among other provisions. But the law also allows communities to opt out of local sales by asking voters.

Narragansett and South Kingstown town councils voted unanimously last week to add the issue to the Nov. 8 ballot for municipal elections.

The legislation calls for a 20% tax rate, divided into a 7% sales tax, a new 10% cannabis tax, and a 3% tax by the municipality where the marijuana is sold.

Additionally, the legislation makes many investments in creating a “fair and accessible cannabis retail market” through setting aside some application fee revenue and reserving a portion of new licenses for “social equity seekers and worker owners”. cooperatives,” according to McKee.

For local law enforcement agencies, the sale of marijuana means the possibility of increased driving under the influence of a substance that could impair a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.

The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association has expressed concern that the drug remains dangerous and that there is no reliable test for impaired drivers who use marijuana.

Without one, prosecutions are more difficult under the state’s drink-driving laws, police officials said, adding that violators could create unsafe driving conditions on streets and highways. local.

Many residents recently answered a question on social media about whether voters or the city council should decide whether or not to allow cannabis stores in North Kingstown. The majority favored voters making the decision and only one said the city council should decide.

Tracy Fusco Cedrone, said, “If it’s legal in the state, why should that be a question?”

Jennifer Ann wrote, “Let the townspeople vote. That’s why we have the voting process. Unfortunately, I fear that too many people are closed-minded and imagine people walking the streets stoned.

Matthew B. McCoy, a Democratic-backed City Council candidate, wrote, “I believe the best approach would be to let voters decide. Personally, I am not in favor of having marijuana dispensaries in North Kingstown. I think the cons outweigh the pros of having this type of business in town.

One person, Jessie Keenan, pointed out that the city was earning additional revenue and that a decision from voters could help.

“Let the voters decide. I think our city deserves the extra tax revenue. Besides so many empty storefronts that need love, the old KFC would be great, drive by! Convenience is key.

Philip Gilchrist wrote: “They should just allow it, or miss a great business opportunity.”

Kelly Hatfield, said, “Leave that to the voters. We currently travel to Massachusetts weekly and would much rather our taxes stay local.

City Council is due to receive a presentation from City Manager Ralph Mollis later this month. He plans to review state law requirements for holding a ballot and city rules needed to allow businesses to sell marijuana under state and local regulations.

If a city or town does not send the law to a referendum, it will be permitted, subject to any related zoning changes passed by the city.

‘A lot of communities don’t send it to the referendum, some do,’ South Kingstown town attorney Michael Ursillo said last week when the town he represents decided to give voters the final say. .

Some municipalities view the associated 3% excise tax in law as a source of revenue and want to recoup that money rather than have it go to a nearby community, he added.

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