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Local leaders mixed on opting out of pot shops

Cannabis bud (Photo provided via Wikimedia Commons)

Lake Placid officials are mixed on whether to opt out of allowing the sale of marijuana in their village. In Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake, boards have not discussed the topic yet, but mayors say they do not expect to opt out.

A new state law legalizing recreational marijuana for adults 21 years old and over includes a provision that allows towns, villages and cities to ban dispensaries, decline to offer on-site consumption licenses to businesses and even impose civil fines for violations, although consumption of cannabis will still be legal.

Lake Placid

“We have not had a public discussion yet,” new Lake Placid Mayor Art Devlin said Monday, the day he was sworn in. “I don’t have a position on that yet. I’d like to speak with legal counsel and our chief of police.”

New Trustee Jackie Kelly agreed.

“I’d like to hear more from other board members and talk to the chief of police before I form an opinion,” she said.

Police Chief William Moore said on March 31 he hopes village board members will pass some laws limiting marijuana’s use in public places, similar to open-container laws limiting public alcohol consumption.

New Trustee Marc Galvin expressed concern about public marijuana consumption on Main Street, noting that there’s already an issue with controlling violations of the open-container law on Main Street.

Trustee Jason Leon was conflicted.

“As a teacher, there’s a part of me that wants to be very diligent about maintaining our family-friendly community, while at the same time recognizing people’s individual rights,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenging discussion for me.”

Trustee Peter Holdereid was firm in his response.

“I’ll do anything possible to not have people smoking a bong on Main Street,” he said.

Legal marijuana isn’t expected to arrive in a retail setting until at least 2022, but local governments have until Dec. 31 of this year to adopt local laws banning dispensaries and on-site consumption licenses, according to the state law.

Opting out would mean not collecting tax revenue from marijuana sales. For the state, legalizing recreational marijuana is expected to translate to more than $350 million in tax revenue annually. Sales will be taxed at 13% in New York: 9% to the state, 3% to the local government where the sale took place and 1% to the county. There can be a extra tax on more potent products with higher THC content.

Saranac Lake

Harrietstown Supervisor Mike Kilroy said the town board has not discussed the new marijuana laws yet, but he plans to bring it up at tonight’s meeting. He anticipates the town will allow it. He said there are already head shops that sell marijuana paraphernalia in Saranac Lake, within the town of Harrietstown.

“Rather than scare away businesses … I don’t see the board putting the kibosh on it, but I’m not sure,” Kilroy said. “I don’t have a problem with it.

“I’m not smoking it yet,” Kilroy said with a laugh. “I don’t even know what the hell it looks like.”

Saranac Lake village Mayor Clyde Rabideau said on March 31 that he does not have any plans to opt out.

He said in his travels to Massachusetts, a state that has legalized recreational marijuana, “There are literally hundreds of people lined up at every cannabis shop every half-mile.” But when he gets to Rhode Island, a state that has not legalized it, there’s “nothing.”

“I suspect half of Rhode Island is just a few feet away in Massachusetts, purchasing,” he said.

He said it would not be safe or economical for Saranac Lake to ban dispensaries.

“It’s better to have control than no control,” he said.

Tupper Lake

While Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun said he’s “up in the air about it right at the minute,” he also said, “I don’t know what the downside of it would be, actually, because it’d be legal.”

Maroun said he will speak with the village police chief and board members about not only allowing dispensaries but also the possibility of marijuana cultivation in Tupper Lake.

“If people are going to be smoking it legally anyway — I mean, I drink Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Would I like to have a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer factory here? Yeah,” Maroun said. “If you’re going to get revenue from it and it’s legal … what’s the big deal?”

He said if the state is regulating its growth, sale and use, he does not see a problem with it.

Tupper Lake town Supervisor Patti Littlefield said her board has not talked about the new marijuana laws yet, but she will bring it up at the meeting tonight.

Littlefield said the law was a “long time coming,” and she’s not surprised it was put in place since many people use marijuana.

She said she’d consider opting out of dispensaries but will wait to decide until there’s more information from the state.

“I don’t anticipate anything right away,” Littlefield said. “I haven’t really given it a whole lot of thought yet.”

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