‘We have the power to regulate it’

Tusten town board discusses resident concerns and marijuana legalization

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 9/21/21

TUSTEN, NY — The Tusten Town Board decided in its meeting on Tuesday, September 14 to move forward with prohibiting marijuana dispensaries and smoking lounges.

That decision wasn’t …

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‘We have the power to regulate it’

Tusten town board discusses resident concerns and marijuana legalization

Posted

TUSTEN, NY — The Tusten Town Board decided in its meeting on Tuesday, September 14 to move forward with prohibiting marijuana dispensaries and smoking lounges.

That decision wasn’t final—the local law still has to go before a public hearing, after which it can be altered by permissive referendum. Nor was it the first time the town board had discussed marijuana legalization.

Back in March, New York passed the “marijunana regulation and taxation act,” legalizing the sale and personal use of cannabis and cannabis byproducts statewide. While the personal use clause of the act is binding, the state allowed towns to opt out of the clause that allows for the establishment of retail dispensaries and smoking lounges. By opting out, a town can ban businesses from selling marijuana, as long as its law is passed before December 31, 2021.

Since the act passed, town boards across the state—Tusten among them—have faced the choice of opting out or not, and have discussed it at some length.

But the process has left more questions than answers, questions that Tusten residents brought to the town board at the September 14 meeting.

Several residents expressed concern or confusion about the board’s decision to opt out. One resident asked about the decision made at the board’s August meeting; he had been under the impression that the board had voted in that meeting to ban the sale of marijuana.

It had not, came the response; that earlier vote had started the process of opting out, but there was still much to discuss.

Another resident expressed concern about the tone set by that process. Having the board decide to opt out before the question reached the public made opting out appear to be the default, he said. Could it be set before the public as a referendum, before the board decided one way or another?

It could not, said town attorney Ken Klein. The state provided the town with the ability to opt out, but the process for opting out began with the town board and passed from there to a public hearing and (if enough people in the town signed on) a permissive referendum.

With the current state of confusion about the law and its implications, several residents in attendance urged the board not to decide on the issue just yet. They said that on October 9, David Holland, a lawyer involved in the creation of the marijuana regulation and taxation act and president of the New York City Cannabis Industry Association, would give a presentation at the Narrowsburg Union about the pros and cons of opting out. Together with other experts, Holland would discuss legalization, industrial hemp and what opting out truly implied.

It would be better to make the decision with the information provided at that presentation, said Brandi Merolla. “I don’t want to shoot it down before we understand the implications.”

Bathrooms, parking and Main Street

In other business, the town board heard public comment on a number of residents’ concerns.

Several residents expressed their concern that Bar Veloce, a franchise bar with locations throughout New York City, had as of yet been unable to open its Narrowsburg location. They said that the bar hadn’t opened yet due to an injunction by a neighboring business, and that it wasn’t right for one business to impede the opportunities of another.

Other residents brought up the town’s lack of public bathrooms.

Without public bathrooms, businesses which provided bathrooms were overrun, said the owners of said businesses. And without a requirement that every business have a bathroom open to the public, businesses without bathrooms were sending their customers to businesses that provided them, making the problem worse.

This was a chronic problem in the town, said Star Hesse, and one that was simple to solve, with two portable toilets put into the recess by Wayne Bank. “We’re encouraging people to come; when they’re out there on the street, they need a place to go to the bathroom.”

Speaking later in the meeting, Yunhui Olman expressed a hope that the town would not spend too much money on bathrooms, saying that the town was more than just Main Street.

The bathrooms were good for everyone, replied Hesse. “To say that we should not put them in because it’s only going to benefit the Main Street people is ridiculous.”

The town board also authorized the formation of a parking committee, to consist of two town board members and any interested local business owners. One such owner had already agreed to serve; another expressed interest at the meeting in serving.

While the parking issue was significant, said one resident in response, he hoped that the committee would consider all elements of traffic, including that of reckless driving. Many people didn’t feel safe around the town at night, owing to consistent reckless and unsafe driving.

“I hate living in this town and thinking that nothing can be done, it’s just the weather,” he said. “It’s not the weather; it’s people’s activity and we have the power to regulate it.”

Comments

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Jim S

Since I am a full-time NJ resident and a part-time PA resident, I have no "skin in this game" when it comes to whether or not Narrowsburg should or should not prohibit marijuana dispensaries and smoking lounges, it is interesting that at the same time the town appears to be leaning toward prohibition, some residents are upset that "that Bar Veloce, a franchise bar with locations throughout New York City, had as of yet been unable to open its Narrowsburg location."

Thursday, September 23