Voters in the Petersburg borough may be weighing in on prohibiting or allowing local marijuana businesses sometime this year after all. Petersburg’s borough assembly earlier this month voted not to put that issue on the October 4th ballot. Residents on Monday asked the assembly to re-consider that decision. Meanwhile, an effort is underway to put some pot business questions to voters, possibly in a special election later this year.
Local residents told the assembly Monday they wanted a chance to vote on allowing marijuana businesses in the borough.
“I think the public should have a chance to vote next fall whether or not there’s actually a place of sale in town like is proposed and I ask you guys to reconsider that,” said Jeff Pfundt. “Give us a chance to vote. I think there probably would be a pretty good turnout.”
Another local resident Michael Mullen agreed. “I don’t personally support retail pot, but if the whole community voted and it passed, I’d say OK,” Mullen told the assembly. “But if I wasn’t given an opportunity and the community wasn’t given an opportunity I would feel cheated.”
The testimony wasn’t all in favor of putting the issue before voters.
Susan Burrell is pursuing a retail marijuana store license from the state and she took issue with a letter to the editor from assembly member Kurt Wohlhueter on the opt out option. “If you had been doing the job assigned to you back then and if you had at that time thought that opt out was a good idea you would have taken care of it right then but in reality it was spoken about one time at your committee meeting, at your marijuana committee meeting and it was shelved immediately, do you remember?” Burrell asked.
For his part, Wohlhueter who raised the issue before the assembly this spring, stepped down from the assembly chair momentarily and up to the public podium to respond. “My intent was never to opt out. I’ve noticed I’ve just read an article here that said I’m still pushing to opt out. All I’m asking to do is give everybody options. Every single voter, one vote, one voice. So now I’m going to be one of seven. Instead of I’d rather have two thousand people voting on this if they all turn out.”
Wohlhueter wanted to re-start meetings of the borough’s marijuana advisory committee and have that group come up with ballot questions for the public to decide. No one else on the assembly was interested in adding that to Monday’s agenda and it did not come up as a discussion topic.
Meanwhile local residents have submitted an application to the borough clerk for an initiative petition seeking a public vote on local pot sales.
The borough clerk will next determine if that application meets requirements under borough code for a ballot initiative. If so, vote supporters would then go out and collect signatures to get the issue on the ballot.
(Editor’s note: this story has been updated to show the ballot initiative application has been submitted)