Village panel to assess cannabis dispensaries

A marijuana plant. The Athens Village Board is establishing a committee to weigh the pros and cons of permitting cannabis dispensaries in the village. Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant/TNS

ATHENS — The village board is considering whether to opt in or opt out of permitting marijuana dispensaries.

Officials agreed to create a committee by the Aug. 11 meeting that would weigh the pros and cons of cannabis outlets in the village.

The move comes as communities across the Twin Counties consider the issue. The deadline to opt out is Dec. 31. If the municipality does not opt out, dispensaries would be automatically permitted in the community.

Village officials expressed diverse viewpoints on the issue.

“I don’t know if we want to opt out,” Mayor Amy Serrago said. “I have mixed feelings because the money would be good.”

Village Trustee Joshua Lipsman noted cannabis is now a legal product in New York state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation March 31 legalizing recreational adult-use marijuana.

But there are other issues to consider, Serrago said.

“It’s a legal product, but the traffic in the village — that’s what I worry about,” she said.

There are steps the village can take to place parameters on how dispensaries are operated in the community, village attorney Tal Rappleyea said.

“If you opt in, then you have to look at how do we mitigate those potential issues,” Rappleyea said. “What zoning would you put in, how large would you allow it to be, the hours of operation. It doesn’t have to just be, we opt in — come on in. We could say you could just be in this district, in the hours of 9 to 5, and this is how many square feet it can be — those kinds of things.”

Village Trustee Rickie Gabrielle expressed opposition to permitting dispensaries in the community.

“I don’t think this should be in the village,” Gabrielle said.

If the village were to permit the dispensaries, there would be a 9% state excise tax on sales of marijuana and a 4% local tax. Greene County would receive 25% of the local tax revenue and the remaining 75% would go to the municipality where the dispensary is located, according to the legislation.

“All of this will depend on if we permit it, there has to be a business that wants to set up in the village,” Lipsman said. “If they don’t set up in the village, there is no money. If they do, it will depend on how much business they do.”

The deadline to opt out is Dec. 31.

“I think we should put together a committee and I like the idea of hearing from the community about what they want to happen,” Serrago said. “If you opt out, you lose out on any of the income and that’s a lot of tax.”

The mayor pledged to get the community involved in the decision-making process.

“In Great Barrington (Massachusetts), I know a lot of people were against it when it first started and I can understand there is fear and you don’t know who is coming, but I think the rest of the year we will have a lot of public discussion on this and we won’t move without doing that,” Serrago said.

The board passed a resolution to establish a seven-member committee and at the next meeting Aug. 11 will announce the members. There could be zoning and planning board members, as well as residents from the community at large, among others, on the committee, Serrago said.

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(1) comment

Fr1245678910

Let's be real, even if Athens were to opt in, it's not like players are beating down the door to locate a dispensary there.

Most dispensaries are either a) located in populous areas where there's enough people to buy from them or b) located in areas where there are other draws to the area as well as easy highway access from major roadways.

Athens has none of these.

Opting in would definitely be wise, though, however, it would definitely get the local bumpkins up in arms. I mean, cannabis? That stuff is for hippies. It's better to get hammered, drove around the back roads drunk and then go home and beat your wife, darn it!

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