The town of Skaneateles held a somewhat heated media meeting Tuesday about New York’s recently passed law to legalize recreational marijuana.
An unknown aspect of the law was the focus of much of the meeting, which eventually saw residents share a wide range of opinions about the law and the substance itself.
Presented at the meeting were attorney Michael Palestra of Hancock Estabrook, who took 30 residents present in the Austin Park ward through the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act signed into law March 31 by former Governor Andrew Cuomo. Palestra explained that the reason for the meeting was that the town and village of Skaneateles could opt out of two parts of the law: allowing retail marijuana sales in dispensaries and allowing consumption sites. If so, their boards of directors must draft local ordinances, which may be subject to referendums if enough residents petition for one.
Palestra said municipalities have until December 31 to withdraw, but they can rescind their local laws at any time after that. Every other part of the new state law will be in effect in Skaneateles regardless, Balestra continued. This includes legalizing the possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana, use of the substance and, eventually, growing up to three mature and three immature plants in the home.
“This is something most people don’t see in their lifetime. We’re literally taking a new product that we couldn’t legally get hold of, and now we’re telling everyone, ‘This is a new commodity.'” We can make it, we sell it, we can use it.” “The state has already decided where we are going. You can’t keep marijuana out of town or village.”
As residents began to raise their hands with questions, Palestra stressed that the details of the state’s law were not over yet. He said the new Office of Cannabis Administration, which will oversee the substance in New York, is currently a “shell.” Until its board of directors is appointed and its regulations drafted, the timeline and other details for licensing the marijuana business are unknown.
This includes farmers, dispensaries, consumption sites and small businesses – which will become a frequent topic of questions at the meeting. Balestra explained that the small businesses are licensed to grow, process, distribute and distribute marijuana. But municipalities cannot choose not to allow it the way they can with traditional dispensaries, which makes small businesses an effective loophole.
However, due to the lack of regulatory language from the state, Balestra was unable to provide more details about the small business on Tuesday. For example, it is uncertain whether it can be operated outside of residences, but he believes that zoning laws will make this question moot. He said the amount of marijuana produced by a small company that is limited to growth and processing is also unknown.
Another small business question the attorney couldn’t answer was about tax returns. Dispensary sales of marijuana will incur a 4% local tax in addition to the 9% state tax: 3% for the municipality and 1% for the county. Palestra said that municipalities that choose not to allow dispensaries will not see this revenue, but it is not known if they will generate revenue from small business sales as well.
About halfway through the meeting, questions about small businesses and other aspects of state law gave way to comments about the possibility of the town or village of Scaniatelles choosing to withdraw.
Among the village’s most vocal supporters who have allowed dispensaries and consumption sites is Joshua Allen, owner of a cannabis farm in the Tap Root Fields area.
“I’m thinking of the school we are building For now, and that would be a great resource,” he said really, “by saying ‘no’ to this, you’re rejecting a lot of the money that would potentially be made for the city.” She is here. There’s really nothing you can do about getting it back. Really, you decide to raise the money or not. And I hate to see you not. ”
Several Skaneateles residents who work in healthcare also commented at the meeting. After one praised its medical applications, another health care provider, Kira Viutac, disagreed.
“We can always opt out in the future. We can never opt out. We don’t have specific regulations. Why rush into that?” She said.
Timree Williams, a 15-year-old nurse, responded by endorsing marijuana based on personal experience.
“It’s so sad to have patients who abuse alcohol and opioids,” she said. “I’ve never had a patient abusing marijuana with any kind of significant medical problem.”
As residents continue to exchange opinions about marijuana, City Councilman Chris Legge reminded them that the substance is indeed legal in the state.
“In fact, we only have two things that we can act on,” he said. “The others are not under our control and can happen regardless.” “These deals are done. The state has already told everyone exactly how they want to see this industry grow and develop. We only have two very simple decisions to make that have consequences outside of just those two decisions.”
City Superintendent Janet Aaron ended the meeting by telling residents that the board would consider the comments it received that night as it looks to make its decision by December 31.
“We have a lot to think about and consider,” she said. “We have to try to make the best decision for society.”