October 18, 2021

C’ville opts out of pot dispensaries, consumption sites

Stock Image of Marijuana

The Cortlandville Town Board approved a local law Wednesday to opt out of allowing recreational marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption.

The board voted in two parts, 4-1, in favor of opting out of allowing dispensaries, with Douglas Withey being the dissenting vote, and 5-0 opting out of allowing on-site consumption sites.

Recreational marijuana was legalized in March for adults 21 or older in New York, but municipalities were given the option of opting out of allowing dispensaries within their borders.

Municipalities have until Dec. 31 to opt out of allowing dispensaries.

Cortlandville Town Attorney John DelVecchio said Wednesday that once a municipality opts out, it can opt back in and allow sales at a later time. However, if a municipality takes no action, it will automatically be allowed to have marijuana dispensaries and can’t opt out afterward.

Another option, having town voters decide during the November general election, wouldn’t be possible as DelVecchio said it was past the deadline to get a referendum on the ballot.

Before the vote, Withey asked what the estimated loss of sales tax for Cortland County would be if the town decided to opt out.

Town Supervisor Tom Williams said the county hadn’t determined that.

“It appears from discussions I’ve had with people that are in favor of having dispensaries feel that all it does is force our people to spend their money in Tompkins County or wherever and there’s probably a lot of truth to that,” Withey said.

He added that he’s not personally in favor of marijuana consumption, but he wasn’t opposed to other people being able to buy it.

“I would think that if down the road, if there’s a huge, huge demand for it and people come knocking on the door, we can opt back in,” said board member Jeff Guido.

DelVecchio, despite a request from board member Ted Testa, declined to give an opinion on whether the town should opt out but presented three points for the members to consider:

Municipalities could regulate where dispensaries would go if the town decided not to opt out.

The economic effect has been determined, but if the town opted out, data could be collected from municipalities that have marijuana dispensaries and see if that is worth having the town opt in later.

If the town didn’t opt out, there would likely be a rigorous license application process for those interested in opening dispensaries, potentially similar to a business obtaining a liquor license.

Williams said before the vote that his vote was based on his experience as a state trooper dealing with drug abuse and that federal laws remain in effect against recreational marijuana sales and consumption.

Other municipalities have taken action on marijuana as well.

  • The Homer Town Board voted Aug. 5 to leave the decision up to town voters by putting the question of dispensaries in the town on the Nov. 2 ballot.
  • The village of Homer opted out for allowing consumption sites, but not for marijuana dispensaries.
  • The village of Marathon board will discuss the issue at its Sept. 1 meeting, according to the village’s Facebook page.
  • The city of Cortland’s Common Council hasn’t publicly discussed whether the city should opt out.

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