North Elba board plans hearing on cannabis law

LAKE PLACID — The North Elba Town Council has scheduled a public hearing on cannabis next month to garner feedback from the community before councilors vote on whether or not to allow cannabis sales and on-site consumption licenses in town.

The board agreed Tuesday that the decision to hold a public hearing does not mean they are taking steps to opt out — board members said they want to give residents a chance to provide input on the law before making a decision either way.

When adult recreational marijuana use was legalized in New York earlier this year, the state’s cannabis law gave municipalities the opportunity to opt out of allowing dispensaries and/or consumption sites within their limits. Towns, villages and cities have until Dec. 31 to opt out of one or the other, otherwise, they will automatically be opted in to both. The town board expects to vote on the law directly after the public hearing on Dec. 14.

Youth and cannabis

Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Tim Seymour and Lake Placid resident and psychologist Ray Havlicek shared their opinions on what they see as the largely negative effects of cannabis consumption on adolescents at the start of the town council’s meeting Tuesday and encouraged the board to opt out of marijuana sales and on-site consumption licensing. There wasn’t a public hearing scheduled for the cannabis law before the meeting. Town supervisor Jay Rand said Wednesday that Seymour asked if he could speak at the meeting, and Rand asked Havlicek if he’d be willing to speak, too. Rand has said repeatedly that he is against allowing dispensaries and on-site consumption licenses in town.

Councilor Derek Doty said Tuesday he had no problem with gathering all the information the board could get before making a decision, but he said he wasn’t clear on “the direction between youth and a legal entity for adults.”

Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, it’s illegal for dispensaries to sell cannabis products to individuals under 21 years old, and vendors can refuse a sale to anyone they believe to be underage or to be buying for an underage individual.

Doty said he knows where he stands on allowing on-site consumption licenses — he doesn’t want those approved.

“I just am battling within myself the difference between a regulated dispensary, where people are identified that go in and you have a way of knowing usage, as opposed to drug dealers and a product that is tainted …”

“… and sold to children,” Councilor Emily Politi added.

Doty has said he likes that dispensaries are regulated with “eyes” on them.

“This drug isn’t going anywhere,” he said. He added that he’s on the fence about allowing dispensaries in town.

Town attorney Ron Briggs encouraged the board to hold a public hearing before taking a vote.

Briggs said he “come(s) at it” from a different perspective. He said that alcohol is legal, and he believes there is at least one or two sexual assaults in “high schools all over this county” every year involving “binge-drinking girls, binge-drinking guys.” He said that THC content in cannabis is rising, and just as kids find access to legal alcohol, they might find access to legalized cannabis.

“I know it’s legal, and I know it’s going to happen, but I’m only asking this board to defer your final decision to the time of the public hearing, get the input from the community, let people come in and talk to you at the public hearing, and at the end of it you decide yes or no,” Briggs said.

Politi said she sent Briggs and elected officials documentation that shows that the legalization of marijuana does not increase youth usage. Briggs said he didn’t see the studies, but that he sent Politi one study that does make that connection. Politi said Briggs’ study was from 2014, and that the studies she sent were more recent and rebuked that evidence.

“The connection between youth illegal use and legal adult use … you’re making a connection that isn’t necessarily there,” Politi said.

Seeking public feedback

Rand said that at that night’s meeting, the board needed to decide whether or not they wanted to make a resolution introducing a proposed local law to opt out of allowing the dispensary and on-site consumption licensing, which would create the need for a public hearing. A public hearing is required if the town wants to opt out. The board agreed that they wanted more public input before voting.

The Lake Placid Village board of trustees has started taking steps to out of dispensary and on-site consumption licensing, with the goal of placing the law on the ballot in March for voters to make the final decision. However, if the town board decides to opt out, they cannot place the issue on a ballot. The only way the town’s decision to opt out could be reversed is if residents present a valid petition forcing a public vote before the law goes into effect, within 30 days of the board’s vote.

After a motion was made to introduce a public hearing, but before the motion was approved, Politi clarified that she didn’t want people to react to the idea that the town was trying to opt out.

“It’s more like we want to hear what you have to say either way,” she said.

The public hearing will be held at 5 p.m. on Dec. 14, an hour before the town’s regularly scheduled meeting.


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