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North Elba council mixed on marijuana

Marijuana buds (Provided photo — Efiks, via Wikimedia Commons)

LAKE PLACID — North Elba Town Council members are mixed on whether to opt out of allowing marijuana sales.

“My personal opinion on marijuana and drugs is I’d do anything to keep it out,” town Supervisor Jay Rand told the Lake Placid News on Monday.

Rand said he’s against the sale of marijuana in the town of North Elba right now; however, as the board discusses it in the future, he is not ruling out changing his mind. He said having marijuana for sale on Main Street, Lake Placid, would be “a tough pill” for him to swallow.

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.

Legal marijuana isn’t expected to arrive in a retail setting until at least 2022, but local governments have until Dec. 31 to adopt a local law requesting that the Cannabis Control Board prohibit the establishment of retail dispensary licenses and/or on-site consumption licenses in the the municipality, 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 into 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 an extra tax on more potent products with higher THC content.

Lake Placid’s Main Street business district is within village limits and would fall under the authority of the Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees, not the town council. New village Mayor Art Devlin and Trustee Jackie Kelly said earlier this month that they needed more information before forming an opinion. Trustee Peter Holdereid said he’d “do anything to not have people smoking a bong on Main Street.” Trustee Jason Leon was conflicted about the issue, and new Trustee Marc Galvin expressed some concerns about public marijuana consumption.

Rand said the town council hasn’t discussed the issue yet and he needed more information.

“It’s just, I think an awful lot of things have to be worked out. And it would be interesting to see what other communities are going to do as well,” he said. “I go back to things like, how many millions of dollars have we spent nationwide on trying to keep kids from smoking, and now we’re throwing it out there so that marijuana’s OK to smoke?

“I think there’s just a lot of issues that have to be put on the table and solutions that have to be worked out in proposals. I always try and, as much as possible, look on both sides of the coin and will keep an open mind until everything gets put on the table. But that’s where I start. It’s at the bottom. I’m dead-set against it.”

Town Councilor Jack Favro also said he wouldn’t want to see dispensaries on Lake Placid’s Main Street and would like to see some regulations on marijuana use. On the other hand, he acknowledged the economic impact of the cannabis industry in Colorado. Ultimately, Favro said he needs more information and feels the public needs to have a say before the council makes a decision.

Town Councilor Derek Doty said he’s fine with the sale of marijuana but wants to see more information from the state, like where people would be allowed to use marijuana and how the state law will impact businesses’ and municipalities’ drug policies.

“Society is going to have to figure out what’s responsible use,” he said.

Town Councilor Emily Politi said she wouldn’t be in favor of issuing on-site consumption licenses.

“I just think that’s a step too far,” she said.

However, she said that with marijuana being a legal substance, she sees a dispensary as being like any legal store. She noted that she knows local people who use medical marijuana and currently have to drive to Plattsburgh, about an hour away.

Town Councilor Richard Cummings said he’s not against the sale of marijuana but is not in favor of on-site recreational use in public places. He said he’d want to learn more before making any decisions, and he’d like to see how the state regulates marijuana use.

“Down the road, I want to see it treated the same as alcohol,” he said.

Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn contributed to this report.

(Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly said that if a town wants to opt out of issuing marijuana retail dispensary licenses and/or on-site consumption licenses, a referendum must be held 30 days before Dec. 31 and that if a referendum is not held, the town will automatically be opted in. That’s not true. According to the state’s cannabis law, if a town wants to opt out, the board simply has to pass a resolution adopting a local opt-out law by Dec. 31. That local law is subject to a permissive referendum governed by Section 24 of the Municipal Home Rule Law, meaning town residents have 45 days from the adoption of the law to gather enough signatures to force a public vote. If no petition is filed within 45 days, it automatically becomes law. The Enterprise regrets the error.)

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