Cochecton leans toward retail cannabis ban

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 9/14/21

COCHECTON, NY — Much of the business discussed at the regular meeting of the Cochecton Town Board on Wednesday, September 8 was postponed to a recessed meeting, to take place on Monday, …

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Cochecton leans toward retail cannabis ban

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COCHECTON, NY — Much of the business discussed at the regular meeting of the Cochecton Town Board on Wednesday, September 8 was postponed to a recessed meeting, to take place on Monday, September 20 at 7 p.m.

The board received two bids for the supply of ice control sand for the period of September 1, 2021 to August 31, 2022 as required; these bids were opened and read, but the board’s final determination was postponed to the recessed meeting.

Board members received correspondence from an entity wanting to control wireless facilities within the town. Discussion of that, too, was pushed off to the September 20 meeting; supervisor Gary Maas said he would try and get Tom Shepstone, who is helping the town to update its comprehensive plan, to attend that meeting.

Board members did, however, discuss the town’s position on the state’s cannabis legalization law.

The Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act, signed into law on March 31, legalized personal possession and recreational use of cannabis statewide; no local law can affect this state-wide legalization. Towns and municipalities do have the option to opt out of the clause that allows for the operation of retail dispensaries and smoking lounges; by opting out, a town chooses to ban the sale of cannabis within the area of its jurisdiction.  

The board had discussed the law at an earlier meeting, and decided it did not have enough information to decide one way or the other. In the September 8 meeting, with the benefit of time and consideration, the board decided that opting out made the most sense for Cochecton.

The vote wasn’t unanimous. Councilmember Dr. Paul Salzberg advocated in favor of a split law, one that banned smoking lounges but allowed retail dispensaries to operate.

Splitting the law sounded like a good idea, said councilmember Sean Nearing. But there wasn’t enough state guidance or information released as of yet to allow retail dispensaries to operate with any confidence.

“Maybe once we learn more, there’s a chance we can look back at it,” said Nearing “There’s not enough information, I don’t think, really out there right now.”

The board reasoned that it could always opt back in and allow dispensaries and smoking lounges after some time passed and more information was available. But the way the law was written, if a town didn’t opt out by December 31, it would lose the power to do so going forward.

“I think we should start the ball rolling,” said Maas.

While the board voted to opt out, board members made it clear they wanted to hear from the public before making a final decision.

The process of passing the law included several opportunities for public comment, said attorney Karin Mannino, including at a required public hearing (date to be announced).

Several residents in attendance (among them Kambri Crews, Democratic candidate for town councilmember) took the opportunity afforded by the board meeting’s public comment period to offer immediate feedback, speaking in support of retail dispensaries.

While the town could choose to opt back in later, opting out now and having the sale of cannabis banned could harm Cochecton’s chances of attracting that business long term, they said. Other towns would be opting in as Cochecton opted out, and cannabis businesses would establish themselves in other towns without waiting for Cochecton to opt back in.

“I don’t want to prevent business activity in town,” said Maas. “But this time is the only time we have to opt out.”

Comments

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jay

What a shame. I imagine the revenue from a dispensary could cover the cost of the new water system and avoid those tax bills. Plus many other things.

Imagine a business on the edge of town serving people with disposable income who are happy to pay higher prices than illegal drug dealers charge, but to have a legal, convenient (albeit expensive for all the taxes) transaction. Dispensary users aren't drugged out zombies - they're people who prefer a healthier alternative to alcohol. Once marijuana is federally legal, we'll see it become very mainstream, just like alcohol has done post-prohibition, with any stigma quickly fading into the past. Now is the time for the town to capitalize on the potential tax revenue, before Big Marijuana acts like Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco, fighting against those taxes.

It's economics, not a social issue.

Thursday, September 16