Politics and Community

Village cannabis opt-out vote set for Dec. 20


After much debate and hours of public comment from various stakeholders, business groups and residents, Village of Valley Stream officials are closing in on a decision on the future of cannabis sales in the village. For months, they have considered whether they should pass an opt-out resolution that would ban cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges within the municipality’s jurisdiction.
That question has been answered, somewhat. At a village work session earlier this month, most of the trustees, five to one, decided to hold a vote on the resolution.
If trustees had decided against voting on the opt-out resolution, a state law allowing dispensaries and consumption lounges would have automatically taken effect in the village at the end of the year.
On Monday, trustees unanimously approved a motion to schedule a vote on the opt-out measure for Dec. 20. Trustee Vincent Grasso, the lone board member who supports cannabis sales in the village, did not attend the meeting.
At that time, the village will hold a public hearing on whether to allow a permissive referendum or a mandatory referendum in the event that residents want to override a board decision to prohibit dispensaries and consumption lounges. State law allows residents to try and override the board’s decision, but only in a public referendum.

In a permissive referendum, residents would need to submit a petition signed by 20 percent of registered voters in the last village election within 30 days of passage of the local law to override the board’s opt-out decision, according to state officials. There were 26,267 registered voters as of the last village election in 2020. That would mean more than 5,000 signatures from residents would need to be collected to hold the referendum.
In a mandatory referendum, the village would assume the cost of carrying out an election on whether to override the cannabis opt-out decision. If trustees voted for a mandatory referendum, a special election on whether to allow dispensaries and consumption lounges would have to be held, at a projected cost of $75,000, according to village officials.
Village clerk James Hunter said Valley Stream would “have to get everything through the [Nassau County] Board of Elections” in order to hold the vote. “It has to be run just as any trustee or mayoral election,” Hunter said. “We have to get machines, polling places, poll watchers, personnel and ballots. We have people working from the time polls open to the time polls close. There’s a lot involved with running an election, but if we had to do it, we’ll do it. We’ll get it done.”
“I’m in favor of the mandatory referendum, even if it costs $75,000,” Trustee Dermond Thomas said at the work session. “People should be heard.”
“I’m willing to compromise with my colleagues and vote for the mandatory referendum to turn it over to the people. I think that is the fairest and best compromise because people should have a say in this,” Grasso said in a phone interview with the Herald. “. . . Having done petition for ballot action, I know it is a very difficult and onerous process.”
“There’s no too high a price on people getting a say,” he added.