Lake Placid board plans cannabis law opt out

Cannabis bud (Photo provided via Wikimedia Commons)

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Village Board is planning to opt out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licenses within village boundaries. While the board hasn’t formally voted to opt out yet, local officials unofficially agreed to start that process during last week’s board meeting.

The state Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act legalized recreational cannabis use in March, and municipalities have the ability to opt out of allowing recreational dispensaries and/or on-site consumption licenses in their jurisdiction until Dec. 31.

“The absolute last minute”

The cannabis law wasn’t on the agenda for the village board’s meeting on Oct. 18, but when Mayor Art Devlin asked board members if they had any old business to discuss, village Attorney Janet Bliss addressed the board about the village’s impending decision to opt in or out of allowing cannabis sales and on-site consumption.

“Please do not wait ’til the absolute last minute on the opt-out/opt-in. You’ve gotta make some decision,” Bliss said.

Devlin made it clear that the board wants to opt out.

“I think at this point it’s fair to say the board’s wish — at this point — will be to opt out pending further information in the future,” Devlin said.

But the board had different understandings of how to follow through with that decision.

Devlin said he thought the decision to opt out would require a public hearing. He said he spoke about that possibility with North Elba town Supervisor Jay Rand, who thought that “might be a step” in opting out. Bliss said she believed the decision would require a public hearing since the board would be passing a local law, an action that typically requires a public hearing.

On Friday, village Clerk Anita Estling confirmed the need for a public hearing prior to the board’s opt-out decision.

The board also questioned whether or not they could force a public referendum on the law in an upcoming election. A referendum would place the law on a ballot to allow voters to directly vote on the cannabis law.

Devlin said he believed that the village could force a referendum, while the town would have to wait for a public petition to be filed to get it on the ballot for voters before readdressing the law. Bliss said that was also her understanding of the law, based on a presentation by Association of Towns attorney Sarah Brancatella in an informational session on the MRTA last month.

“The village board can, of its own accord, decide, ‘Hey, we’re gonna hold a referendum on this,'” Brancatella said during her presentation in September. “The town board, on the other hand, can’t, of its own initiative, decide to take this to a vote of the residents — it has to wait until a petition is filed if it is going to go to a vote.”

If the majority of voters choose the opt-in option, the board’s decision to opt out would be reversed, according to Devlin.

“That’s fine, that’s the reason we’re doing that (referendum),” he said last Friday. “The majority rules.”

Devlin said in the meeting that he thought the board could force a referendum in the village’s special election in March, when voters will elect a new trustee to replace Jason Leon’s position on the board. Leon is running for a seat on the North Elba Town Council. Bliss said she thought that vote would have to wait until the general election in 2023, but she said “that’s a question, see — this is all a work in process.”

Devlin confirmed last Friday that the referendum could appear on the special election ballot.

Devlin and Bliss agreed that opting out and forcing a referendum would not only give the village time to see what the voters want, but would also allow time for rules and regulations related to adult-use cannabis to get ironed out at the state level.


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