Voter guide: Cannabis in Lake Placid

Election Day is Tuesday, March 15

This sample ballot shows what Lake Placid voters will see at the polls on March 15. (Photo provided)

LAKE PLACID — Residents of Lake Placid will decide this coming Tuesday whether or not this village will allow cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licensing within its boundaries.

Recreational marijuana was legalized statewide last March, and local governments had until Dec. 31, 2021 to pass local laws opting out of allowing dispensaries and/or on-site consumption licensing within their boundaries. The village board unanimously voted last December to opt out and place its cannabis laws on the ballot to give voting village residents the final say.

You’re invited

Village residents can vote from noon to 9 p.m. at the North Elba Town Hall on Tuesday.

It’s too late to request an application for an absentee ballot through the mail, but people can request an absentee ballot in person through Tuesday. Village Clerk Anita Estling said that as long as absentee ballots are turned in by 5 p.m. on Election Day, the ballot will be counted. People who have concerns about COVID-19 can request an absentee ballot for that reason.

People won’t be required to wear masks in the town hall on Election Day, Estling said.

This election is for residents of the village and will only affect areas in the village, not outside of the village within the town of North Elba, according to Estling. Town voters are expected to get the opportunity to vote on its cannabis laws during this November’s election.

Village governments, unlike town governments, had the ability to opt out and then pass a resolution to place their cannabis laws on a ballot. Towns that opted out had to wait for residents to file a petition to bring the cannabis laws to a vote. The town council opted out of cannabis businesses last December, and town residents filed a petition for a permissive referendum in January.

Casting the vote

The first proposal on the village’s cannabis ballot will read: “Shall the village of Lake Placid opt out of allowing retail cannabis dispensaries from locating and operating within the boundaries of the village of Lake Placid?” People who want to allow dispensaries in the village would vote no to that question, and people who don’t want dispensaries in the village would vote yes.

The second proposal on the ballot will read: “Shall the village of Lake Placid opt out of allowing on-site cannabis consumption establishments from locating and operating within the boundaries of the village of Lake Placid?” People who want to allow businesses to obtain licenses that would let customers to consume marijuana on-site in the village would vote no to that question, and people who don’t want on-site consumption in the village would vote yes.

These are the only two proposals on the ballot.

The election will be analog, with paper ballots, a ballot box and votes counted by hand. Mayor Art Devlin said the county is busy with early voting right now and couldn’t send more election resources. “So we’re on our own,” he added, though he expects the county will send election officials on Tuesday.

The ballots will be counted after polls close at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, and Estling expects results to be available that night.

Post-election possibilities

The town and village formed a joint committee on cannabis zoning this past December. The group has had one agenda item: to look at amending the joint land use code to account for legal cannabis businesses in the event that town and/or village residents overturn the municipalities’ opt-out laws.

Village Trustee Jackie Kelly is on the committee along with town Councilor Emily Politi, Lake Placid/North Elba Community Development Director Haley Breen, Code Enforcement Officer Michael Orticelle and Code Enforcement Officer Darci Lafave.

While the group hasn’t solidified any zoning suggestions related to cannabis businesses yet, Leon said there have been some ideas “thrown around” about where those businesses would be zoned — primarily in commercial, business districts. Kelly was not available for comment on Friday.

The committee has also discussed extending state regulations on how close a cannabis business can operate to schools and similar facilities. The proposed zoning changes would be an extension of cannabis business zoning set by the state in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which states that cannabis businesses can’t operate within 500 feet of a school or within 200 feet of a place of worship.

The proposed changes would additionally prohibit a cannabis business — which includes dispensaries, on-site consumption lounges and smoke shops — from operating within 200 feet of a daycare, childcare facility, youth center, community center, recreational facility, playground and other places where children gather.

State regulations

The state Office of Cannabis Management is still outlining regulations for adult-use cannabis legalization in New York under the MRTA, though some procedures have already been laid out.

There are nine types of adult use business licenses, including a cultivator license; nursery; processor; distributor; retail dispensary; delivery; on-site consumption; adult-use cooperative; and microbusiness license. People who want to operate a cannabis business in Lake Placid would have to apply for a license through the state Cannabis Control Board. The CCB expects to set applicant requirements in “the coming months,” according to CCB Chair Tremaine Wright.

Right now, it’s unclear when cannabis businesses will open their doors across the state. Wright said the OCM is working hard to implement the MRTA regulations.

“We’re examining our timeline closely,” she said.

Wright said the office expects to start releasing adult use businesses regulations late this winter or early spring. Then, she said, there will be a 60-day public comment period on the proposed regulations, after which the OCM would amend the regulations as necessary. Wright said the CCB could start accepting business applications at that point.

There will be a 9% state excise tax and a 4% local excise tax on all adult use retail cannabis sales, according to Wright. Products with higher THC content will be taxed at a higher rate. Of the 4% local tax, 25% of that revenue would go to Essex County and 75% would go to the municipality where the sale happened, according to the OCM. If the town and a village both allow adult-use sales, the revenue could be distributed based on a distribution agreement between the town and village. If not, then the revenue distribution between the town and village would be divided evenly.

Wright said that state tax on retail sales will be used to cover the cost of OCM operations, law enforcement training and programs to support equity applicants. After those up front costs, she said, portions of the sales tax will go toward schools, communities harmed by disproportionate policing when cannabis was illegal, and a drug treatment and public education fund.

The OCM already has some cannabis regulations related to driving, public smoking and youth consumption. It’s illegal to drive while impaired on cannabis, and it’s illegal for passengers to use cannabis while the car is moving, too. The state plans to increase its stock of “drug recognition experts,” or law enforcement that’s trained to tell if someone is driving while high. The state also wants to look at devices to detect cannabis impairment, like the breathalyzer that’s used to gauge alcohol levels.

It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase cannabis, and it’s illegal for an individual or dispensary to sell cannabis to an underage person.

People can’t smoke cannabis where smoking tobacco is illegal. The village board last November outlawed public tobacco smoking in public areas like parks, streets and municipal buildings.

Voters’ choice

If voters decide to keep the village opted out of dispensaries and/or on-site consumption licensing, the village board would still have the power to opt in at a later date. However, the village board couldn’t opt out of dispensaries and/or on-site consumption licensing again if voters decide to opt in, since Dec. 31, 2021 was the last chance for municipalities to opt out.

Village officials have said in the past that they want residents to have the final say on the cannabis issue, and even though they could opt in if voters choose to stay opted out, officials are holding true to their original claim.

“Why would you go against your voters?” village Trustee Peter Holderied said. “It’s just wrong to do that, in my opinion. The whole point of having the election is to find out what the majority of people want.”

“I’m not going to overturn what the voters want,” Devlin said.

Devlin added that he’s taking a “non judgemental” stance on the issue and that he can see both sides — the benefits of regulating cannabis and why someone might be against having businesses here.

Village Trustee Jason Leon also claimed neutrality on the subject and said that once voters decide, it’s a “completed issue” for him.

“I’m ready for whatever the residents decide — whether they don’t want it, then they don’t want it, I’m good with that,” Leon said. “If they do want it, then the village board has some work to do to make sure that it’s carried out safely and responsibly, and that the revenue generated for that is appropriately redirected back to the community to make sure that education and safety are funded.”

Village Trustee Marc Galvin said the village heard from a lot of residents about the cannabis issue last year when it was first legalized. He said people were “passionate on both sides” and that officials felt it was the right thing to do to let residents decide. Galvin said that the voter turnout will determine whether or not he’d be willing to opt in if voters decide to opt out — he wouldn’t want to stand by what 40 voters decided if “a ton” of people come forward and want to opt in later.

Village officials and employees came to a consensus on one point: residents should get out and vote.

“They shouldn’t be voting on Facebook, they should come out and cast their vote and not let a couple dozen people make this important decision on behalf of the whole village,” Estling said.


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