Lake Placid cannabis hearings draw little feedback

LAKE PLACID — No members of the public showed up to speak during two public hearings on two proposed cannabis laws on Monday, but one resident did speak on the issue after the public hearings had closed.

The Lake Placid village board held the public hearings as the board prepares to opt out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licenses within the village.

“It is our intention to have this public hearing and opt out with the understanding that within a month’s time — when the timing is perfect — we will then allow this to go on March elections to leave it to the voters to decide what is going to happen,” Mayor Art Devlin said Monday.

When recreational cannabis use was legalized statewide in March, municipalities were given the chance to pass local laws opting out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licenses by Dec. 31. If local governments don’t opt out by then, the municipality will automatically be opted in.

Village governments, unlike town governments, have the ability to opt out and then place their cannabis laws on a ballot, which is the process the village board decided to begin last month. Devlin has repeatedly said that the village board wants to leave the final decision on cannabis with Lake Placid voters.

No members of the community were present for Monday’s hearings online, nor at the North Elba Town Hall. One resident, Martin Shubert, did comment after the public hearings were over. He expressed support for opting in.

Public hearings are a required first step before the village board can vote to opt out of the cannabis dispensaries and licenses. The board held a public hearing for the laws on Nov. 15, but after technical difficulties during the beginning of the meeting that prevented members of the public from joining the meeting virtually in time for the public hearing, the board decided to hold a second round of hearings on Dec. 6. Two Lake Placid residents spoke online via GoToMeeting at the first set of hearings on Nov. 15, and one of those residents, Shubert, returned to speak online at the end of Monday’s meeting. While the public hearing was closed by that time, Devlin invited resident Shubert to speak on the cannabis laws.

Shubert said Monday that he believes the revenue from cannabis sales could be beneficial to Lake Placid, comparing the revenue dispensaries could brings to the village with revenues from the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Lake Placid, which he said bring in revenue from neighboring towns. The DMV in Lake Placid is run by Essex County, not the village, but does generate revenue for the county. Before it opened, many Lake Placid residents used the DMV office in Saranac Lake, which generates revenue for Franklin County, not Essex County.

There will be a 13% tax on the sale of marijuana products. Of that, 9% would go to the state, 3% to the local government where the sale took place and 1% to the county where that local government is located.

Shubert said he believes the dispensaries would provide more regulation of cannabis quality and control over the ages of people who can access cannabis – people must be at least 21 years old to purchase cannabis products.

Next steps

The board is expected to pass the local laws opting out of having cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licensing in the village “sometime in December,” according to Devlin and village attorney Janet Bliss.

Bliss advised the board to act on adopting the local laws opting out on Dec. 20, the board’s next meeting.

If the board votes on the opt-out law at their Dec. 20 meeting as discussed, the board would have 30 days to adopt a resolution putting the laws on the ballot, according to municipal law. The last day possible to adopt the resolution would be Jan. 19, 2022, two days after the board’s second meeting in January. Once the resolution is approved, the board has 60 days to place the law on the ballot — by March 18, 2022 if the board acts at their Dec. 20 and Jan. 17 meetings.

The board plans to place both laws on the ballot during the village’s special election in March 2022, when voters will elect a new councilor to replace Jason Leon, who was recently elected to the North Elba Town Board. The special elections are set to take place on March 15, 2022, according to village Clerk Anita Estling.

The special elections are just within the bounds of the 60-day time frame if the board initiates the opt-out vote on Dec. 20. There are 56 days between Jan. 17 and March 15.

Exploring future scenarios

Leon asked the board to consider what could happen if the law is overturned by the results of the referendum.

Devlin said that if the state determines a dispensary could come to the village, he said the board could look into zoning laws. Bliss advised the board to consider changes to the village land use code under those circumstances to limit or designate where the businesses could operate.

The Cannabis Control Board, a state-run board that oversees licensing, cultivation, production, distribution, sale and taxation of cannabis in the state, has the authority to grant or revoke dispensary and on-site consumption licenses to businesses. Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, local zoning laws can restrict where those businesses can operate. The village could also adopt local laws placing time, place and manner restrictions on dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges.

Leon said that he also posed questions about land use code changes to the North Elba Town Board, which has yet to adopt a local law opting out of cannabis dispensaries or on-site consumption licensing in the town. Right now, most of the North Elba board stands opposed to opting in to on-site consumption lounges in the town; the board is more split on whether or not they should opt out of having dispensaries in the town. The North Elba Town Board is expected to vote on the laws at their Dec. 14 meeting, directly after public hearings on its laws.

Bliss said that if the town doesn’t opt out of having cannabis dispensaries, the village wouldn’t receive any cannabis revenue from the town. If the village’s opt-out laws are overturned in a public referendum and dispensaries come to the village, Bliss said the village would split cannabis revenue with the town 50-50.


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