Hillsdale officials open town to cannabis sellers

The Hillsdale Town Board decided to allow cannabis dispensaries to do business in the town.

HILLSDALE — The Hillsdale Town Board decided Tuesday to allow the sale of marijuana in the town.

After holding a public hearing Oct. 4 that garnered about 35 participants, the board unanimously decided to take no action on the state’s cannabis legislation, meaning the town intends to allow marijuana dispensaries in Hillsdale.

Communities across the Twin Counties are considering 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.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation March 31 legalizing recreational adult-use cannabis. There will be a 9% state excise tax imposed on marijuana sales and a 4% local tax. Counties will receive 25% of the local tax revenue and 75% will go to the host city, town or village.

Municipalities can opt out of permitting cannabis sale sites. The deadline to opt out is Dec. 31.

To opt out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses, a municipality must enact a local law by the December deadline.

If a municipality does not opt out by the December deadline, it will be unable to opt out in the future, but any municipality that has opted out by the December deadline may opt back in at any time to allow dispensaries or on-side consumption licences by repealing the local law which established the prohibition.

Under state law, county governments are not allowed to opt out. Only cities, towns and villages can.

The law also allows voters in a municipality to petition whether to approve the local law.

Hillsdale Town Supervisor Chris Kersten expressed his support for having the town take no action on opting out.

“We’ve all had an opportunity to reflect on this issue,” Kersten said. “For myself, I’m in favor of opting in. And it offers, in my opinion, advantages to the town.”.

Town Councilman Tom Carty said the legislation offers protections.

“I think the law as written has many safeguards built into it that we can use. And given the current state of things, I think it’s a good law,” Carty said.

Town Councilwoman Jill Sims said it was important to let citizens know their options in disputing the board’s decision. Town attorney Matt Cabral said he would investigate what actions residents can take.

“Only because I think that if people disagree with what our decision is tonight, they probably would like to know what they could do to be able to get it on a ballot, so the citizens could vote,” Sims said. “I would agree that maybe the town could should consider taking no action, but I was looking for some information for those that have concerns on how they could move it towards an election or voting situation, I should say.”

Councilwoman Robina Ward and Councilman Steve Tiger also agreed with taking no action.

“I believe we have a sense of the board that we will opt in, and that therefore we need not take any action beyond that at this point. So that is the position of the town board. Certainly a majority feel this way. And so we’ll proceed on that basis,” Kersten said.

Over three fiscal years, the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, has collected more than $6.7 million in sales tax revenue and community impact fees from cannabis sales, the town finance director told the Great Barrington Select Board on Aug. 23.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Great Barrington has a population of just under 7,000.

The town of Lee, Massachusetts, had its first cannabis retailer open in 2019, and in its first year of operation, it generated more than $494,000 for the town, which is 3% of its sales, the chief operating officer told the town board in July 2020.

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