WATERTOWN – Proponents of local pot shop opening will be lighting their joints in the median of Public Square on Friday afternoon.
The event will be billed as “Just Roll With It” smoking. The scheduled start is at 4:20 p.m. This time refers to 420 or the code word for smoking marijuana.
Lighting a joint in public became legal for adults on March 31 in New York after state lawmakers passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which also allows marijuana dispensaries and on-premise pot shops to open.
But the city council decided last month to reject the law that would allow these types of businesses to open in Watertown. Pharmacy advocates are circulating a petition for a referendum that would force them into town.
Corey M. Pentoney, one of the petition’s co-organizers and avowed cannabis smoker, said he didn’t know who was putting together smoking on Friday, but it would give his group a chance to get people to sign their petition.
“It’s legal and you can light it,” he said of the smoke.
While some of those involved in the petition drive will be in attendance, there are some concerns about the “look” of the event and how it will play out with opponents of your effort, said Chris M. Ebey, who wrote the petition.
“We don’t want to make her angry,” she said.
City Manager Kenneth A. Mix was unaware that the smoke was taking place in Public Square. The event does not require any approval. He also noted that it is legal for attendees to use pot at the event.
So far, the group of around 20 active participants has received around 300 signatures. You have to get 593 or 10 percent of the city’s population and have 45 days to turn it into the city clerk’s office. You want to collect more than 700.
Petitions are available in the Flashback Lounge, Dusty B’s smoke shop, Pearl Street Pub, and other locations. They also visit Watertown Farmers Market on Wednesdays and plan to head to Anchorcon, a gaming event held in Clayton this weekend to collect signatures.
If they get the required number of signatures, the referendum would take place in 2022.
The group has received help from the Jefferson County Board of Elections to proceed with the petition and referendum, organizers said.
Councilor Ryan Henry-Wilkinson and councilors Patrick Hickey and Cliff G. Olney III have also supported the effort, they said.
Ms. Ebey describes herself as a recreational pot user who only consumed it legally. She thinks cannabis is safer than alcohol.
She has gone to pharmacies in malls in other states that make money for their communities and create jobs. It can happen here, she said.
They are safer than going to a drug dealer around the corner, she added.
But opponents claim that pot is a gateway drug that leads to addiction to other drugs. They also believe that pharmacies increase crime. It would also encourage young people to use cannabis.
If the city didn’t opt out, it would receive 3% of a 13% excise tax on retail sales of marijuana in the city.
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