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Residents Split On Pot Dispensaries

Steve Kilburn, Chautauqua County Mental Hygiene Department grant director, discusses, during a Lakewood Village Board meeting, the potential vulnerable populations that might be impacted negatively if drug dispensaries and consumption sites are located in the municipality. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

LAKEWOOD — It appears residents in Lakewood are split on whether to allow cannabis dispensaries and consumption sites in the village.

On Monday, the Lakewood Village Board hosted a public hearing to listen to residents about whether to pass a local law to opt out or to allow dispensaries and consumption sites in the municipality. During the public hearing, 16 people spoke with eight in favor of allowing pot dispensaries and consumption sites and eight against allowing these businesses.

Those in favor of it cited an increase in sales tax revenues, medicinal purposes and that it could possibly reduce people’s dependency on opioids. Those against it said pot dispensaries and consumption sites will increase the number of crimes in the village and will increase the number of people in the village abusing drugs.

Lakewood-Busti Police Chief Christopher DePonceau said he is against allowing these types of businesses in the village because it has increased the number of armed robbers in other states where marijuana has been legalized.

Ellen Barnes, village trustee, invited Chautauqua County Mental Hygiene Grant Director Steve Kilburn to the meeting to provide information to the board and those in attendance about drug abuse. He said it’s well-documented that pot, in some cases, can negatively impact vulnerable population like young people, those with mental illness and those with substance abuse problems.

Following public comments, the board members said they wouldn’t be voting on the local law to not allow cannabis dispensaries and consumption sites Monday. Randy Holcomb, village mayor, scheduled another public hearing at 6:45 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23, to hear again from the public on the issue.

“There’s a lot of things to consider – I know it’s a hot topic,” Barnes said.

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