Town Board looking to opt out of marijuana dispensaries, consumption sites due to lack of information
The Batavia Town Board on Wednesday night voted to schedule a public hearing on a resolution that would enable the municipality to opt out of allowing cannabis retail dispensaries and on-site consumption sites through New York’s Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act.
“I don’t think there’s enough information from the State of New York to enter into something that we could never get out of,” Town Supervisor Gregory Post said following the monthly board meeting at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road. “The bottom line is that we can always opt in to it when we have more details and it is something that we can administer.”
Post said he was concerned that “a decision made by five people (the Batavia Town Board) probably isn’t a clear and transparent representation of the whole community.”
If a local law to opt out is passed following the public hearing set for 7:10 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Town Hall, it could lead to a permissive referendum organized by residents who disagree with its decision.
“People opposing that law could get together and find their way to the ballot and ask the community whether they want this or not,” Post said. “In my opinion, this is too early in the game … and jump into this thing not know what the down-the-road consequences and financial implications are.”
The supervisor did acknowledge that eventually opting in to the new law could be “lucrative” to the town, which would receive 3 percent of the sales tax collected on cannabis transactions. The state would get 9 percent and Genesee County 1 percent.
“The county, which will be burdened with 100 percent of the cost of mitigating through mental health services, probation and any of the issues that come up from sales to minors – all of the cost and expense to the community through the health department, ultimately will receive only 25 percent of that (4 percent to municipalities),” he explained.
Post also brought up the fact that marijuana continues to be against the law at the federal level, and that regular testing of commercial truck drivers, who have to be free of substance use, will continue.
“The federal oversight and management of some of our largest employers, such as Graham, O-At-Ka Milk, HP Hood, those that are making food and are considered strategic investments have to be compliant,” he said. “It’s assumed that you’re OK to consume these (marijuana) commodities if they’re legalized in the town, and then go to work and find out you can’t work because you failed a drug test.
“We’re seeing as many as 50 percent of the drivers failing the drug tests because their assumption is if it’s legal, then I don’t have a problem. But yet, it is a problem.”
Signed into law by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 31, the MRTA paves the way to an estimated $1 billion industry with expected annual revenue of $350 million and the creation of between 30,000 and 60,000 jobs.
The legislation permits adult use of cannabis for those 21 years of age and up – people who may possess, display, purchase, obtain or transport up to 3 ounces of flower or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis.
It also expands New York’s existing medical marijuana program and immediately allows eligible users to smoke cannabis in public wherever tobacco is allowed.
Consumption is not allowed in schools, federal lands, workplaces or in vehicles as the federal government still has jurisdiction in those places.
The two types of retail sites are retail dispensaries, which could be storefronts to buy products for home consumption and adult use consumption sites, and lounge-like locations for purchase and use on-site.
Municipalities have until Dec. 31 to opt out of any dispensary or on-site consumption site within their jurisdiction.