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Pine Plains first to allow local pot sales while Amenia drags on

HARLEM VALLEY — With the clock ticking until New York State’s end-of-year deadline for municipalities to opt in or out of permitting cannabis dispensaries and lounges, the Pine Plains Town Board voted to allow cannabis dispensaries but not lounges at its meeting on Thursday, Sept. 16.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) was adopted by the State of New York in March. The MRTA legalized adult-use recreational marijuana. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo gave municipalities until Dec. 31 to decide if they would permit cannabis to be sold commercially and/or smoked on site at lounges within their borders.

Pine Plains takes action

The Pine Plains Town Board held a public hearing for the local law opting out of permitting marijuana lounges and other consumption facilities in town, closing the hearing minutes later when there was no public comment.

Attorney to the Town Warren Replansky suggested going through the environmental impact review for the local law before adopting a negative declaration to confirm the law won’t have any potential or significant environmental impacts. He also reminded the board its decision to opt out of cannabis lounges “is not an irrevocable decision — the board can change course at any time it wants thereafter and opt in.”

If the board decides to opt into either local law for permitting dispensaries or lounges, Replansky said the town will have to adopt amendments to its zoning code in the next year or two regulating uses of dispensaries and/or lounges within the town.

After further discussion, the board voted unanimously against allowing lounges, which would be akin to bars that sell alcohol, in Pine Plains.

Next, the public hearing on the local law to opt in or out of allowing retail cannabis dispensaries was opened; it closed shortly thereafter when there was no public comment.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for our town, said Councilman Matthew Zick, citing potential tax revenue and new small businesses. “If you ever go to Great Barrington, [Mass.,] every plate in the parking lot is a New York State plate… so why not make it closer?”

Referring to dispensary licenses, of which the state is only going to issue about 700 state-wide, town Supervisor Darrah Cloud said, “I feel that we would possibly lose out all together on getting one if we waited too long. The process for choosing who gets a license is going to start really soon so that the people who opt in are going to be first in line for those licenses … and the ones who opt out will be second in line and that will be a long process.”

Regulations for dispensaries are 90% written, Cloud said, adding it could be two to eight weeks before they are released. 

After some more discussion, the board unanimously decided to opt in and allow cannabis dispensaries in town.

Amenia, slow to act

Elsewhere in the Harlem Valley, the town of Amenia again deferred taking action on the MRTA at its September board meeting. Though the subject of marijuana dispensaries and lounges has been broached at its meetings in the past few months, the board has not at this time held a formal discussion on the subject, unlike many of its neighboring communities. 

Asked why, town Supervisor Victoria Perotti explained, “I have been gathering information on the law from the Association of Towns and other sources and giving it to the Town Board so that they have all the information they need to make an informed decision.”

“We’ve been hearing some public comments that people have come forward to remark on it and I think we’re busy trying to hear from different people,” said Councilwoman Vicki Doyle when asked why the board has been so reticent to discuss the law.

The topic has been broached informally at a couple of board meetings and discussed briefly by some board members but there has not been a formal discussion or a public forum, as there was in Millerton/North East and in Pine Plains prior to their public hearings on the issue.

Come Thursday, Oct. 7, the Amenia Town Board intends to introduce a resolution  on if the town should opt in or out of allowing marijuana dispensaries and/or lounges, with plans to set a public hearing shortly thereafter. 

“I do believe we should’ve had more open discussion about it,” Councilman Damian Gutierrez said. “I personally don’t know yet how I stand on the issue but I think there’s a lot of benefit on both sides, considering.”

Citing the substantial tax revenue the town could gain from opting in and the limited number of licenses expected to be issued throughout the state of New York, Gutierrez said, “I only ask that my fellow Town Board members is that they keep an open mind and not sort of base the decision on preconceived notions and hear out the pros and cons.”

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