As predicted, the Town Board is moving towards a vote that would opt us into allowing the retail sale of marijuana here in Bedford.
Question: Didn't we just opt-out in December?
Question: What's changed in these 6 months?
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, my only hope with this manifesto is to make you aware of some of the chicanery exhibited by our elected officials throughout this process.
I dialed-in to their working session on May 3rd expecting to hear what I thought would be a thought-provoking, back-and-forth discussion from people on both sides of the issue. That was not the case. They arranged for one nay-sayer - a drug abuse prevention counselor - followed by a litany of proponents, and a slideshow that walked us through the racist history of Cannabis dating back to the 1500's. Their 'sales pitch' concluded with a few minutes from a member of the Towns' Zoning Board who made no recommendations of special zoning rules other than the minimum standards set by the State - which means these stores could sit in any retail area in the Town of Bedford as long as it's not within 200' of a church or 500' of a school (no mention for the protection of school bus stops, parks, historic districts, specific shopping plazas, etc.). And public comment was not permitted in this session.
What's worse is that I have a hunch this Town Board will propose to approve retail marijuana stores here in Bedford (without any specific zoning rules) at the June 7th Town Board meeting - which feels like an awfully quick turnaround. And just what is the rush? The recording I referenced/linked above makes it very clear that social equity is at the basis of their decision - do we miss out on that if we pushed this decision back a year from now? Wouldn't we be better informed to have an open and deliberative process so that at the very least, we could define the zoning rules for these stores prior to any vote? Or ideally, let other towns be the 'guinea pig' in year 1 so we can factor in actual data (i.e. traffic or crime) into our decision? *Remember, we can opt-in at any point but once we do - there is no opt-out.
We're talking about a controversial and divisive decision that impacts an entire community. And the speed at which this Town Board moved (remember, we opted out just 6 months ago!) without any substantive deliberation or rule-setting is really unsettling.
Here's what you can do:
1. Send a letter or email to the Town Board simply stating that the Town shouldn't vote to allow retail stores without first defining the zoning rules
2. Plan to attend the June 7th Town Board meeting (in-person or virtual) to state the same message.
3. Share this post along to friends and neighbors that you think would be supportive - even those who may be supportive of the legalization of marijuana might not want the stores in our Town without any special, Bedford-specific zoning rules.