CATSKILL — After a public forum at which residents overwhelmingly voiced support for the establishment of cannabis shops and marijuana lounges in the town of Catskill, the municipality is closer than ever to allowing both in the town.
The state’s newly created Office of Cannabis Management will be allowed to issue licenses for dispensaries and lounges in towns that do not opt out of the state cannabis legislation by passing their own local laws by Dec. 31.
Catskill Town Councilman Patrick McCulloch said he went into the Nov. 17 public forum at the Robert C. Antonelli Senior Center with an open mind and said he will listen to the public’s will.
“I believe everybody in the audience was for both selling it and the lounges,” he said on Monday. “It’s legal in New York State and I know there are some people out there that do have issues with it, and that’s their opinion. I for one, I don’t have a problem with it, to be honest with you.”
Town Councilman Jared Giordiano went into the public meeting in full support of allowing the cannabis stores and lounges, and was validated by the feedback from residents.
“It seems like the community is in support of it,” he said. “As a town board member I’m in complete support of it. I think it would be a complete disservice to the taxpayers of the town to not be in support of it.”
As part of the state legislation that legalized the possession and use of marijuana for adults 21 and over in the state, a local excise tax of 4% will be imposed on the sale of marijuana. From that tax, 75% of the revenue will be funneled to local municipalities, while 25% will go to the counties where the cannabis shops are located.
“I had already decided that I was going to be for offering lounges and dispensaries,” Giordiano said. “I did most of my research and homework over the summer and I think in a shrinking tax base we’d be remiss not to offer them the ability to come in.”
Prior to the meeting, Catskill Town Supervisor Dale Finch said he was waiting until he heard a consensus from the public before he made a decision, noting that only one outside business group has so far contacted the town about potentially establishing a dispensary in Catskill.
The town board is next scheduled to meet on Dec. 7. If the town does not pass a local law by the end of the year, both the shops and lounges will be allowed in the town. If the town opts out before, then they can opt back in at any time.
“If you do nothing, you’re in,” Giordiano said. “The only thing is if you want to opt out you’d have to schedule a public hearing and have a vote. I think at this point that timeframe is going to expire. If it’s just up to me I think we’re in, but I don’t know the pulse of the rest of the board.”
If the town does not opt out by the end of 2021, they will not be able to opt out at a future date.
“We don’t have to do anything, or the town could come up with a resolution to pass stating that we’re in favor of it,” McCulloch said. “As a board we have not decided anything yet.”