Getting into the business of marijuana

Highland takes the option to dispense and sell

By LAURIE STUART
Posted 12/21/21

ELDRED, NY — Failing to get a second, the Town of Highland opted into allowing a cannabis retail dispensary within its borders. The move followed a 10-minute sparsely attended public hearing on …

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Getting into the business of marijuana

Highland takes the option to dispense and sell

Posted

ELDRED, NY — Failing to get a second, the Town of Highland opted into allowing a cannabis retail dispensary within its borders. The move followed a 10-minute sparsely attended public hearing on Local Law #5, which was written as an opt-out resolution of dispensaries and smoking lounges. The lack of a second indicated the law to opt out had failed without an actual vote being taken.

The board unanimously approved opting out of smoking lounges.

In opening the hearing, supervisor Jeff Haas opened the floor and asked the board where they stood on the issue.

Deputy supervisor Jim Gutekunst spoke about the taxing benefit and the creation of another business in town. “It’s not that it won’t be available, people will just have to drive longer.” While supporting the idea of a dispensary in town, he spoke against smoking locations.

Councilmember Fred Bosch said he did not see any benefit for either option. “It would be in the best interest of the town to not sell it in the town or have places of consumption,” he said.

Councilmember Kaitlyn Haas said a retail establishment would be a smart option to opt into.

Supervisor Jeff Haas said he would reserve his opinion until the regular part of the meeting.

Michael Davidoff, attorney of the town, said that the vote would require three affirmative votes to pass. He counseled the board that they could separate the dispensaries and smoking lounges in the law. He said that a tie vote would defeat the resolution, as it had to be a simple majority to pass. “If you don’t opt out you’re automatically in,” he said.

Highland Lake resident Jim Carney said that local dispensaries for both medical and recreational marijuana would probably benefit the town. “It’s going to happen all around us,” he said. “So we might as well take advantage of it.”

Chief constable Mike Walton also spoke favorably about the presence of dispensaries in the community. Walton said that his son, who is a state trooper in the southern tier of Maine, reported that the problems that the community had in the past with marijuana and growers were down considerably because it is so well regulated.

Gutekunst moved to close the hearing, and it was decided to keep the public hearing open until the advertised time.“When you have a resolution, you have to have a vote, unless there is no second,” Haas said, seemingly a harbinger of the board’s future action. The board moved and seconded a motion to go into executive session to discuss a personnel manner. Upon their return from the executive session, the board closed the public hearing, and proceeded with the regular meeting.

Following a motion made by Fred Bosch and the reading of the resolution opting out of dispensaries, the board sat quietly.

“[I] hear no second,” Haas said, “With no second, we cannot move the motion. What that means is that technically, we didn’t opt out.”

“Right,” Davidoff said. “You didn’t opt out, that means you are in.”

In the regular session, the board adopted Resolution #86 of 2021, establishing an ambulance district. Haas, as part of his supervisor’s report, said that negotiations were moving along and that a new ambulance corps, the Highland Ambulance, would be in service beginning on January 1, 2022. He also announced that the $125,000 SAM grant for the highway building had been received after five-and-a-half years, and that the town was seeking to bond approximately $1.1 million on expenses on that project. Gutekunst said that the residents received $2.7 million in improvements for the approximately $1 million investment. He said that the budget could accommodate the 20-year $50,000 annual payment.

When asked by highway superintendent Tom Ebers what he could do about an employee who would not get vaccinated, Kaitlyn Haas responded that vaccines could not be mandated, and that unvaccinated workers who had an exposure needed to quarantine with 10 days of COVID pay. After that, she said, the benefit plan would take over, and beyond that there was no pay. “All should be wearing masks in the trucks; it’s prolonged exposure to each other; they should be masked.” Jeff Haas indicated that he would address the highway crew about how the Town of Highland was bound to follow New York State executive orders on safety protocols and that employees should use common sense, wear masks, social distance and stay home if they feel sick.

The board set a public hearing for December 30 at 7 p.m. for the 2022 contracts for the Sunshine Hall Library, the Yulan Fire Department, and the Highland Lake Fire Department.

Want to catch up on coverage of the Highland ambulance district? See the stories below:

Busy Highland meeting

A new—and old—volunteer ambulance corps for Highland

Ambulance district formed—fingers crossed on equipment negotiations

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