Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Wednesday legalizing adult use of marijuana in New York, but municipalities can opt out if they choose.
Cities, towns and villages are able to prohibit marijuana dispensaries after they are legally permitted to open in the state in April 2022.
Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said counties do not have that choice.
“It’s not even an option for counties. It will be up to cities, towns and villages. According to the legislation I read, counties won’t have a say in it,” Linger said Friday. “It will be up to the individual municipalities whether they want to participate or not.”
The legislation includes a 13% excise tax on marijuana sold in the state, with 3% going to the municipality and 1% going to the county, Linger said.
If Greene County had been able to prohibit the legal sale of marijuana, Linger said he does not know if the county would have opted out.
“We didn’t discuss it,” he said.
Linger does have concerns with the legislation in terms of people driving under the influence and with the utilities that will be used by people growing marijuana.
“I don’t know how to take it — who will buy it, who will grow it,” he said. “There is the other side of this — if people grow it themselves and you have 100 people doing that, it is going to take a lot of power and the state is the one telling us we don’t have enough power.
“If you are growing, you are using hydroponic lamps and things like that, and I think that could cause a problem. New York City is screaming for power and that’s why we are getting all these renewable energy projects upstate, and it’s all getting piped downstate. If something like this takes off and people grow it in their own homes, it’s going to take a fair amount of power and I don’t think it helps the power problem.”
Linger supports decriminalizing marijuana possession.
“I don’t disagree with taking away criminal charges for some of these smaller personal amounts,” Linger said. “That, I think, is a long time coming and I think it’s smart to do it, but I’m not sure I see the revenue stream that the state thinks is going to come from this.”
Coxsackie Town Supervisor Rick Hanse said the town board has not yet discussed opting out, but he plans on bringing the issue up with the board in the future.
“We haven’t met since it was passed, but this is something that will be on our radar,” Hanse said. “There are pros and cons, as there are in everything, but the town board has not yet had a discussion on it.”
He does have concerns with the legislation, Hanse said.
“I worry about driving under the influence of that or any other drug,” Hanse said. “I am really not all that excited about it. It’s supposed to be a revenue raiser, but it will probably not happen for some time so we will have time to look at it and scrutinize it well, which it really requires — close scrunity.”
Hanse has not been approached by anyone considering opening a dispensary, he said. If a dispensary were to open in Coxsackie and revenue was raised through the taxes it generates, it is unclear how the town would utilize that additional revenue, he said.
“Would we use it to lower taxes? We always like to keep taxes low, but there are larger issues of people driving under the influence of drugs, so that is an issue that really has to be studied,” Hanse said.
Coxsackie Mayor Mark Evans said the village board has not discussed the issue at this time and he has not been approached by anyone in the village looking to start a dispensary.
Athens Mayor Stephan Bradicich, who is leaving office Monday after not running for re-election, said the village board has not discussed the issue and has not heard from anyone in the community considering opening a marijuana dispensary.
“It’s been talked about [in the community] but no one has asked me about it or about where the town or village will go with it,” Bradicich said. “It just hasn’t been a subject yet.”
Hunter town officials began discussing the possibility of marijuana dispensaries in 2020, after the law was proposed in Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State address.
“At that time, we did talk about it quite a bit but we didn’t come to a consensus,” Town Supervisor Daryl Legg said.
Cairo Town Supervisor John Coyne said the town has not received anything official about the new law.
“We haven’t gotten anything official from the state,” he said. “We will address it when that information comes to us.”
Any proposed dispensaries would have to apply to the town planning board, Windham Town Supervisor Thomas Hoyt said.
“They would have to go to the planning board with a site plan and people in the community would have a chance to comment on it,” he said.
The town board would look to the community for input, Hoyt said.
“To be honest, I haven’t given it any thought yet,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if it was gong to pass or not pass. If there is total uproar in the community, then the town board may go one way. If there’s support for a dispensary in the community, the town may act another way. Before we make a decision one way other or the other, we want to have input from the community.”
Catskill Town Supervisor Dale Finch agreed that he would want to hold community forums.
“I wouldn’t make that decision based on revenue, personally,” he said. “It’s really about what else do we want in the town of Catskill. Tax revenue wouldn’t be a factor that would make me swing either way on it.”
Finch said he would want to get input from local recovery resources and the police department as well.
“What are the health effects?” Finch said. “Is there technology out there that detects levels of THC? What are the effects on our children?”
Even if Catskill opts out, these questions still need to be answered, Finch said.
“In the end, if one community doesn’t sell it, they’re going to be able to get marijuana at a neighboring community,” he said. “People who want to use it are going to use it. We need to figure out what’s the pulse of the town of Catskill.”