Copake OKs cannabis retailers in 3-1 vote

The Town of Copake looks at local opt-out laws.

COPAKE — Officials voted to allow retail cannabis dispensaries in town and are considering opting out of on-site consumption locations.

Town officials held a public forum prior to their regular board meeting Thursday where residents spoke about the potential benefits of allowing retail sales of marijuana to come to the town.

“I had the sense here that clearly everybody who came to this meeting or sent us something was in favor of us proceeding,” Copake Town Supervisor Jeanne Mettler said. “I do think when people are talking about allowing the sale of cannabis, what I believe they’re saying is that they want to allow dispensaries.”

New York state enacted the state cannabis law in March 2021. It allows for any village, town or city to create a local law opting out from allowing retail cannabis dispensaries and or on-site consumption sites within its jurisdiction.

State legislation is written so any municipality not opting out is automatically opted into allowing the licenses for both dispensaries and on-site consumption locations. Any municipality that creates a local law opting out has the ability to opt back in at any time.

Numerous Copake residents spoke in favor of allowing retail sales at the meeting.

“I echo the sentiments that it is going to be a great tax revenue boost for Copake, and to not have to go into Great Barrington,” resident Paul Parzuchowski said at the meeting. “And we know Hillsdale will likely do it, so why not, on the way east go to Copake instead of Hillsdale. Great Barrington has five dispensaries, why not take some revenue. Revenue that is deserved in Copake.”

Copake resident Kellie Nardin reflected on a number of different Copake businesses from the town’s past.

“What does Copake have now?” Nardin said. “If you go to Hillsdale on a Saturday the town is bustling. You can’t say that about Copake. And I look at this as a gift horse giving you a present. How can you say no?”

Nardin spoke of how she has seen the businesses of Great Barrington benefit from customers who go to the town for the dispensaries, but while they are there shop at local stores and dine in local restaurants.

The Copake town board broke the opt-out-in decision into two parts. Mettler suggested the board first vote to determine if they would like to pursue the option of opting out of dispensaries and then held a separate vote about pursuing opting out of consumption sites.

“What I’m going to suggest is that we vote on the dispensaries right now and then I’m going to offer a law to be considered at our December meeting as to whether or not we should opt-out of consumption,” Mettler said.

Mettler made a motion calling for the town to allow retail dispensaries and therefore not opt out of allowing retail dispensaries. In a rollcall vote three members voted in favor of allowing retail dispensaries, one member voted no, and one member abstained from the vote. Three votes are needed to pass a resolution.

After the first vote the town board introduced a local law, which if passed would allow the town to opt out of allowing on-site consumption site licenses. After the law was introduced the town board scheduled a public hearing scheduled for Dec. 9 at 6:45 p.m. to discuss the potential legislation.

A local excise tax is imposed on the sale of cannabis products from dispensary to a consumer at 4% according to the state Office of Cannabis Management. The tax is distributed to local governments based on the location of the retail dispensary. Twenty-five percent goes to the county and 75% goes to the cities, towns or villages within the county as a proportion of cannabis sales.

The state Office of Cannabis Management allows cities towns and villages to opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses from locating within their jurisdictions but they cannot opt-out of adult-use legalization. The possession and use of cannabis by adults 21 years of age or older is legal in the state.

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