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The town board will vote on Wednesday on a resolution scheduling a June 15 hearing on a proposed local law to opt-out of retail cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption in Riverhead.

All board members agreed during Thursday’s work session they wanted to hear opinions from more town residents, although the board was split on the value of the hearing’s testimony on the board’s decision. 

Councilwoman Catherine Kent and Councilman Timothy Hubbard were concerned that testimony at the hearing might overshadow the town’s online survey a few weeks prior that showed over 73% of the 1,408 respondents favored marijuana dispensaries. They said a hearing may only attract a few dozen people — including those who had already responded to the survey — and should not outweigh the impact of the survey’s results.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and Councilman Kenneth Rothwell were in favor of the hearing as a second opinion and were concerned the survey did not accurately represent all of the town’s residents, including older residents, who they said may have been less likely to complete the online survey. 

Rothwell said that the hearing would also have the added benefit of educating residents on the new marijuana law and what the town is considering by opting out. 

The deadline for the town’s decision, should it choose to opt-out, is drawing near, deputy town attorney Annmarie Prudenti told the board Thursday. If the town board decides to opt-out, they have to pass a local law subject to a referendum by petition, she said. Residents opposed to the opt-out law would have 45 days from its effective date to file a petition requiring a referendum. In order to force a vote, the petition must be signed by 10% of the number of Riverhead voters who cast ballots in the last election for governor. The referendum must be submitted to the board of elections 60 days prior to the election, Prudenti said. In order to get the proposition on the ballot for the Nov. 2 general election, the town would have to adopt the law by July 7, Prudenti said. The town could have a special election between Nov. 3 and Dec. 31, Prudenti said, but that is very expensive. In any case, the town’s right to opt-out ends on Dec. 31.  

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]