COPAKE—Many Copake residents think their town should not let its share of the money that can be made on the sale of marijuana go up in smoke.
At a public hearing just before the regular November 11 Town Board meeting, residents told the Town Board in-person, via Google Meet and by email why Copake should allow the sale of cannabis under the New York State Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.
“This is a great opportunity for tax revenue,” said Lindsay LeBrecht of Copake Lake. “Now everybody goes to Great Barrington. We should get our fair share and opt-in to cannabis.”
Ronnie McTiernan, who said she has a medical marijuana prescription, told the board she would love to shop locally and support Copake.
Kellie Nardin said that in the 1970s Copake was a bustling place with two grocery stores, a pharmacy, a bakery, numerous eateries and even a movie theater. She said the chance to have a marijuana dispensary in town now is like “a gift horse. How can you say ‘No’? It’s an opportunity that cannot be missed.”
Reading from a bunch of emails received on the subject, Town Supervisor Jeanne Mettler said the comments “show strong support.”
The Copake Economic Advisory Committee wrote that marijuana retail sales will likely have a positive impact on Copake by generating increased tax revenue, bringing customers to town to the benefit of existing businesses and creating well-paying employment. Since New York may require retailers to source their supply from local growers—that may create a new revenue source for farmers in the Copake area.
Copake resident, property owner and Planning Board Chair Bob Haight wrote that when he heard that the legalization of marijuana was under consideration, he thought, “No damn way, this is going to be a mess, there will be stoned potheads all over the streets!”
When Great Barrington, MA, got its first shop, he said he drove by often and saw “unbelievably long lines for months, many with NY plates. We all saw it; it was quite a spectacle.”
He also noticed that there weren’t any of “the stoned idiots I expected all over the place.” In thinking about the people he knows who smoke pot, he said there are many between 25 and 65, “most with professional careers and high-paying jobs.”
He also learned about the millions of dollars Great Barrington collects from the sale of marijuana. Mr. Haight said he “knows of a least one local person actively looking for a location in Copake and others talking about it.” He said the people who patronize the Great Barrington dispensary from out of town and out of state don’t just come, buy their pot and run back home. They stay, shop, spend money and visit the area. “They also were not hanging out on the streets smoking up everything they just bought, as I thought would happen.”
Mr. Haight said, “Yes” Copake should allow a dispensary. “I believe we all could benefit from the taxes it will bring in” and lower Copake’s “too high property taxes.”
Town Attorney Jonathon B. Tingley explained that Copake along with municipalities across the state are authorized to decide on or before December 31 to opt-out of licensing marijuana dispensaries or places for onsite consumption within their boundaries. If municipalities do not opt-out they can enforce appropriate locations for these businesses through zoning. If they do opt-out by December 31, they still have the option of later repealing the opt-out law they adopted and opt back in.
‘This is a great opportunity for tax revenue.’
Copake Lake resident
The attorney said, “Nothing is happening right away, the state is still developing regulations.”
During discussion by the Town Board later in the meeting, Councilperson Terry Sullivan said she was “concerned we have to rush into this.” She also noted that people who spoke seem to prefer to have marijuana locations within the hamlet. She thinks they would be better located on the periphery—such as on Routes 22 or 23, where there is more space for parking “to accommodate the hundreds of millions of people coming to Copake as the Cannabis Capitol of Columbia County,” she joked.
Ms. Sullivan said she has very mixed feelings about the prospect of marijuana sales in Copake and that it does not fit with the Comprehensive Plan for the hamlet. “It has not been the cash cow everyone has expected because the illegal market is cheaper.”
Councilperson Stosh Gansowski said he didn’t know if marijuana dispensaries were appropriate for Copake. He said he had received numerous calls from residents telling him “they don’t want this” and he wished they had voiced their opinions at the meeting.
Councilperson Jeffrey Judd said, Colorado has “made a boatload” on pot sales and he is sure California is “doing all right.” He said, “I don’t like the government telling me what I can grow in my own back yard, if I want to smoke a rose bush I should be able to.”
Councilperson Richard Wolf said in response to an earlier comment, that he disagrees that law enforcement can’t make a determination about whether someone is stoned. He said if sales take place next door in Hillsdale, they should also take place here. “Why should people go spend their money and invest in Hillsdale when they should be able to do it here?”
Supervisor Mettler noted that Ancram has voted to allow retail sales but opt out of “smoking bars.”
She introduced a motion that the Town Board allow dispensaries but opt-out of onsite consumption establishments.
The supervisor, Mr. Judd and Mr. Wolf voted “Yes,” while Mr. Gansowski voted “No,” and Ms. Sullivan abstained.
The attorney will draft a Local Law to opt-out of allowing on-site consumption sites as authorized under NYS Cannabis Law Article 4. A public hearing on the proposed law will take place at 6:45 p.m. prior to the regular Thursday, December 9 Town Board meeting. A complete copy of the law is available by contacting the Town of Copake Town Clerk’s Office.