In/Out? What’s the pot law all about?

CHATHAM—At their regular meeting Thursday, November 18, the Chatham Town Board voted to approve Local Law #3, “opting out of licensing and establishing on-site cannabis consumption establishments within the town.”

The board held a public hearing before voting on the law at the on-line meeting. There was one comment from the public about the local law. Resident Matthew Pirrone said he supported the town’s law to opt out of on-site cannabis consumption sites but he also wanted the board to opt out of all sales of cannabis. Mr. Pirrone said he didn’t think allowing cannabis sales would be beneficial for the community and that consuming cannabis remains illegal under federal law.

The board members did not comment on the law and all five members voted for it.

Several towns and villages in the county are discussing and passing laws similar to the one Chatham adopted as the window closes to the opt-out section of the new state “Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act” (MRTA) that will allow dispensaries or on-site consumption businesses, like cannabis cafes or bars.

Municipalities have until December 31 to opt out of allowing dispensaries and/or on-site consumption sites by passing a local law. If a municipality opts out now it can still opt in at a later date.

But if a municipality does not opt out by December 31, the municipality will not be able to opt-out at a future date, according to the state.

And all local laws passed by municipalities opting out of permitting cannabis businesses are subject to a permissive referendum, allowing voters of the municipality to petition the outcome of a local law.

Earlier this month the Village of Chatham passed a local law opting out of both dispensaries and on-site consumption establishments. At the village meeting on November 8, Village Attorney Ken Dow called the local law a “repeal-able moratorium.” Village Mayor John Howe talked about updating village zoning to allow dispensaries in the future.

On November 16, the Village of Valatie held a public meeting on the issue. Mayor Frank Bevens said his board is looking at passing a law on opting out of on-site consumption businesses, like the Town Board of Kinderhook plans to do at its meeting December 6.

“There is no advantage of opting out of the sales,” said Mayor Bevens of dispensaries at the meeting.

‘… [T]he actual sale of adult‐use cannabis is not expected to begin until late 2022 or early 2023.’

New York Conference of Mayors

Also at the Valatie meeting, the Valatie Board members talked about the licensing from the state and the time it will take before dispensaries are even considered by local planning and zoning boards.

According to information from the New York Conference of Mayors, “While the MRTA legalizes the possession and use of cannabis immediately, the actual sale of adult‐use cannabis is not expected to begin until late 2022 or early 2023.”

The mayors’ organization also said that the state’s marijuana act “creates a heavily regulated market requiring individuals and organizations to obtain a license before engaging in any of the myriad types of authorized cannabis businesses, including cultivating, processing, distributing, delivering, dispensing cannabis, or operating a cooperative, microbusiness, nursery, or on‐site consumption establishment.”

The state MRTA legislation establishes a licensing system and two new state agencies: the Cannabis Control Board, and the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). The OCM will be charged with issuing licenses for businesses to participate in the adult-use, medical and cannabinoid hemp industries.

“To begin accepting applications for the adult-use program, the OCM will need to issue and implement regulations establishing the application process for different license types,” the OCM website says.

Also, under licenses, “the OCM will actively promote social and economic equity applicants who have been harmed by the prohibition of cannabis for adult-use licenses, establishing a goal of awarding 50% of licenses to social and economic equity applicants.”

There is a local excise tax imposed on the sale of cannabis products from a retail dispensary to a cannabis consumer at four percent of the product’s price.

According to the state, “This tax is distributed to local governments based on where the retail dispensary is located. Twenty-five percent of the tax revenue goes to the county and seventy-five percent goes to the cities, town, or villages within the county as a proportion of cannabis sales.”

If a town and a village within the town both allow adult-use sales, the revenue will be distributed based on a distribution agreement between the town and village, but if no such agreement exists, then the revenue distribution between the town and village will be divided evenly.

The Village of Chatham is in both the Towns of Ghent and Chatham; the Town of Kinderhook has both the villages of Valatie and Kinderhook within its border. So far, Ghent officials have not announced whether they plan to pass any local laws about the cannabis dispensaries or on-site uses.

The Town of Kinderhook’s regular meeting on December 6 will start with a public hearing on a proposal for Local law #5 to “opt-out of allowing adult-use on-site cannabis consumption sites to locate within the Town of Kinderhook.” The hearing starts at 6:35 p.m.

The Village of Kinderhook is having a public hearing on a local law opting out of on-site consumption sites on December 8 at 6:45 p.m.

According to the state, while towns and villages can opt-out of allowing cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses from locating within their jurisdictions, “municipalities cannot opt-out of adult-use legalization.”

Adult-use cannabis possession and use by adults 21 years of age or older in accordance with the MRTA is legal in New York State. “With respect to smoking and vaping, cannabis is treated the same as tobacco,” according to information from the Association of Towns.

The Association of Towns material also says that New York is “the 15th state to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana use, and is the 17th overall with some sort of weed law on the books….Once fully operational, recreational cannabis is expected to bring an estimated $350 million annually in New York State and will potentially create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs.” This legislation decriminalizes the possession of less than 3 ounces marijuana for people 21 and older.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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