Some communities go to pot, others just say no – Daily Freeman

For the past several months, municipal leaders across New York have been grappling with the question of whether to allow within their borders marijuana retailers and lounges where the newly legalized drug can be used.

The state legalized the recreational use of marijuana in March and gave cities and towns across the state until Dec. 31 to opt out of allowing pot shops and/or lounges. But while municipalities can ban sales and on-site consumption within their borders, they cannot prohibit businesses that cultivate, process or transport cannabis.

In Ulster County, more than half the municipalities have decided to allow at least retail sales, with 13 of the county’s 20 towns, along with the city of Kingston and villages of Ellenville and New Paltz deciding to allow pot shops. Of the communities allowing retail sales, 12 also will allow on-site consumption.

Two municipalities – the village and town of Saugerties – remained on the fence over the issue as of Dec. 22, while the towns of Marlborough did not respond to inquiries about its positions.

Conversely, according to data collected by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the majority of the 27 municipalities in nearby Dutchess County have opted out of both shops and smoking lounges or have yet to make a decision.

In Northern Dutchess, the towns of Red Hook, Pine Plains and Clinton, as well as the village of Red Hook,will allow retail sales but not on-site consumption. The towns of Hyde Park, Rhinebeck, Milan and the villages of Tivoli and Rhinebeck have opted out of both sales and on-site use.

For many of the communities allowing retail sales, and in some cases on-site consumption, the decision came down to one of economics: Municipal leaders see the budding business as both an opportunity for job creation and a way to bolster their revenues – because towns will share in a portion of the 4% local sales tax collected on cannabis sold in their communities. Other municipal leaders viewed allowing retail sales and on-site consumption as the right thing to do at the current time.

“The town of Shandaken is in support of the new law allowing marijuana dispensaries,” Supervisor Robert Stanley wrote in an email. “Our idea is to utilize existing [zoning] code regarding alcohol sale locations – i.e. bars, nightclubs, restaurants – and changing the term to alcohol to marijuana or marijuana products.”

“We’ve got Stone Ridge and High Falls, how can we say no?” Marbletown Supervisor Richard Parete joked recently. But joking aside, he said, a majority of Town Board members supported allowing the sale and on-site use of marijuana.

Ellenville Village Manager Michael Warren said with the potential of a major cannabis cultivation, processing, packaging and distribution facility on property adjacent to the village, his community is looking forward to the possibility of having retail sale and on-site consumption locations.

Not so, however, in the surrounding town of Wawarsing, where the proposed facility would be located. Town Board members there voted Tuesday to prohibit both sales and on-site consumption of cannabis.

Likewise, town of Esopus officials voted to opt out of both retail sales and onsite consumption.

Esopus Councilwoman Kathie Quick said she voted in favor of Esopus opting out because of a relative’s abuse of marijuana.

“I went through many years of heartbreak over the issue,” she said during a Town Board meeting. “He has finally grown out of it. … I’m very grateful that happened, but it was a very difficult journey.”

The town of Ulster was among a handful of local communities to split its vote – permitting retail sales, but prohibiting on-site consumption.

For communities that decided to allow both sales and on-site consumption, the decisions are final, but the state law allows municipalities that opt out to revisit the issue in the future, something many local officials said they might consider.

“I think that New York state has not outlined or put any details into any of this on-site consumption,” Ulster Councilman Eric Kitchen said during a Town Board meeting at the time of the vote. “So the town really has no guidelines to follow.”

Likewise, Ulster Councilman John Morrow said the board could not “vote for something [when] we don’t know what it is. We have no idea what the state regulations are regarding this.”

Town of Rhinebeck Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia sounded a similar refrain in voting to opt out of both possibilities.

“I’m pro-dispensaries, but I don’t know what I’m buying into,” she said. “I want to see … what the laws look like.”

Under New York’s marijuana legalization law, persons age 21 and older can possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of cannabis concentrates in the state, and they can smoke marijuana wherever it is permissible to smoke tobacco.

The state’s Cannabis Control Board will work out regulations for the retail sale of marijuana, and the state Cannabis Control Board will begin issuing retail licenses.

• • •

Here’s a breakdown, by municipality, of where Ulster County and Northern Dutchess communities stand on whether to allow marijuana shops and smoking lounges.

Ulster County

• City of Kingston: Retail sales, yes; on-site consumption, yes.

• Denning: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Village of Ellenville: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Esopus: Retail, no; consumption, no.

• Gardiner: Retail, yes; consumption, unknown.

• Hardenburgh: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Hurley: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Town of Kingston: Retail, yes; consumption, no.

• Lloyd: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Marbletown: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Marlborough: Did not respond to inquires.

• Town of New Paltz: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Village of New Paltz: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Olive: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Plattekill: Retail, no; consumption, no.

• Rochester: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Rosendale: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Town of Saugerties: Undecided as of Dec. 22.

• Village of Saugerties: Undecided as of Dec. 22.

• Shandaken: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

• Shawangunk: Retail, no; consumption, no.

• Ulster: Retail, yes; consumption, no.

• Wawarsing: Retail, no; consumption, no.

• Woodstock: Retail, yes; consumption, yes.

Northern Dutchess

• Clinton: Retail, yes; on-site consumption, no.

• Hyde Park: Retail, no; consumption, no.

• Milan: Retail, no; consumption, no.

• Pine Plains: Retail, yes; consumption, no.

• Town of Red Hook: Retail, yes; consumption, no.

• Village of Red Hook: Retail, yes; consumption, no.

• Town of Rhinebeck: Retail, no; consumption, no.

• Village of Rhinebeck: Retail, no; consumption, no.

• Village of Tivoli: Retail, no; consumption, no.

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