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Millerton opinions voiced on cannabis law

MILLERTON — Navigating the unchartered waters of New York State’s new marijuana law together, the village of Millerton and the town of North East gave local residents an outlet to share their opinions at a joint community forum on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

The forum was held at 6 p.m. at the American Legion Post 178 building in Millerton. Over the next hour, the forum drew about 24 people, including local leaders, representatives and interested community members. At the front of the room sat Millerton Mayor Jennifer Najdek, North East town Supervisor Chris Kennan and Attorney to the Town Warren Replansky.

Kennan explained the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) makes possession and use of cannabis legal in New York State. What is now in their laps, he said, is whether to permit cannabis dispensaries and/or on-site consumption facilities, or lounges.

Kennan said the town has taken the first step in deciding to opt out of doing so; it had until the end of the year to decide whether or not it wanted to do so according to a deadline that was set by former Governor Andrew Cuomo. Now it can take its time to decide if it wants to opt back in down the road.

That will be discussed at the North East Town Board’s next meeting on Thursday, Sept. 9. 

Najdek said the Village Board has not yet had the chance to talk about the law and hopes to do so at its workshop meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14. Though she initially considered opting in, after a discussion with other mayors and town supervisors in the state, she said she’s wary of potentially opting into something about which the village would like more information and is unsure of what the fallout will be.

Talking more about the MRTA in relation to their municipalities, Kennan mentioned the town and village would share the tax revenue made from any future marijuana sales, if both municipalities opt in. 

Najdek mentioned it could be tricky to find a suitable locations in the village for a cannabis dispensary. 

Shedding a light on the legalities involved, Replansky said the town could decide to pass a local law to opt out of either the dispensaries or the lounges or pass a local law to opt out of both.

Asked by a forum participant if the dispensaries would sell to people from only New York State or to whoever walks through the door, Kennan said he believed the dispensaries could sell to anyone of legal age, 21 years or older.

North East resident Bill Kish asked if the lounges would be solely for the consumption of cannabis or if they could be mixed with other substances such as alcohol. He also asked if there would be any regulations on the form of cannabis permitted.

“This is where there’s a lot of detail that has yet to be sent our way,” Kennan said.

“Unchartered waters we have yet to sail through,” Replansky added.

North East resident Chris Regan pointed out that the people who want to use marijuana are likely already using it, and are also able to get it.

“It isn’t as if marijuana is being introduced through the dispensaries: it’s becoming legal,” Regan said, adding that, if anything, the law is reducing the impact of the black market and making sure it’s sold to people of legal age.

It’s also regulating the quality and the price of the drug.

Other queries posed at the forum pertained to the potential incentives for communities opting in; the time line for establishing regulations; the drawbacks of opting in; and zoning as far as where potential commercial cannabis businesses might be located if the town and/or village are to permit either dispensaries and/or lounges now or in the future.

For more on local towns considering the MRTA, go to www.tricornernews.com.

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