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Towns wait on cannabis shop decision

Cannabis bud (Photo provided via Wikimedia Commons)

The towns of Tupper Lake and Harrietstown are taking it slow in deciding if they will allow cannabis dispensaries and lounges.

Board members say they want to hear more information and learn what other towns and villages are doing before they make a decision.

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.

If a town wants to opt out, the board must pass a resolution adopting a local law by Dec. 31 requesting that the Cannabis Control Board prohibit the establishment of retail dispensary licenses and/or on-site consumption licenses in the the municipality.

If a town opts out, it could not collect tax revenue since there would be no marijuana sales within its jurisdiction. 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.

Tupper Lake

“I’ve been to several states, including Washington state,” Councilman John Quinn said. “The place hasn’t gone to hell and they’ve had legal marijuana for years for recreation. … It’s a great revenue source. As a concept I’m not opposed to the sale.”

He said he doesn’t see why the town should restrict it more than the state does.

“It’s here whether it’s legal or not. We’re not fooling ourselves,” he said.

Many surrounding states have had legal weed for years he said, bringing in millions in revenue every year.

“New York has been missing the boat,” Quinn said.

The state estimates marijuana is expected to bring in at least $350 million in tax revenue annually.

Town Supervisor Patti Littlefield wondered if it would be higher. She said she remembers when the Franklin County bed tax started, the estimated revenue from the tax was 25% higher than initially estimated.

Other council members wondered if cannabis production would fit in Tupper Lake.

“We’ve got a pretty good sized building right to the side of us,” Councilman Mike Dechene said, referring to the abandoned Oval Wood Dish factory next to the town hall.

“Right? Imagine that,” Littlefield said.

Harrietstown

Town Supervisor Mike Kilroy said the decision of whether to allow dispensaries is essentially up to the village of Saranac Lake. The population center sits inside three towns — North Elba, St. Armand and Harrietstown — so Kilroy said there would not be a point to opting out if a dispensary could just open down the road. He said he’d like to wait until the village weighs in with its decision for the town to make a decision.

“They really are the end deciders on this as far as I’m concerned,” Kilroy said. “I’m not against it.”

Kilroy brought up the Higher Peaks glassware shop on Main Street, asking if that shop could become a dispensary.

Councilwoman Jordanna Mallach said the law will not impact current paraphernalia businesses, but that starting a dispensary would require starting a new business.

Kilroy worried that opting out would make it look like the town is discouraging business and tourism.

“I don’t care how you feel about marijuana, but I don’t want to discourage anyone from coming here either,” Kilroy said. “So what if they’re high?”

He chose to refer the issue to committee so it can be brought up at a later meeting.

(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 permissive referendum must be held 30 days before Dec. 31 and that if a referendum is not held, the town will automatically be opted in. Furthermore, it incorrectly stated that the board’s decision must be made by Dec. 1. 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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