It’s too early to say what the legal marijuana market will look like in the area, local leaders said, but officials commit to addressing the issue as more details become available.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act on Wednesday, which legalizes recreational cannabis use. Under the new law, municipalities won’t be allowed to restrict the use of marijuana or related products, but local officials can offer bans on pharmacies and consumption licenses on-site.
Cities and villages have until December 31st to legally de-register. In addition, such opt-outs are subject to a permissible referendum, which enables petitions from voters to contest the bans in an up-or-down vote at the ballot box.
In addition, local authorities may set their own zoning and siting rules for local pharmacies or convenience stores, provided that the regulations “do not make such licensed retail pharmacies or local consumption locations unreasonably impracticable”.
Districts may not be able to issue blanket bans for all municipalities, as was considered in 2019. In addition, if a city proposes a ban, all villages in that city will not be tracked as the villages have the option to deregister independently.
Olean City officials appear to be turning to the sale.
“The way the excise tax is structured could be a potential godsend for the city,” said Mayor Bill Aiello, noting that 3% of all sales will go straight to the city, as will regular sales tax cuts through the city. “I have a fiduciary responsibility to find out what is best for the city and I want to hear from the residents.”
The mayor said he has not yet spoken to the entire Joint Council on the matter and so far has only received one comment from the public on the opt-out option – from a Washington-based anti-marijuana activist whose opinion is Aiello is not very difficult.
Aiello, a retired police officer, declined to allow sales in the city a few years ago.
In 2019, a proposal before state legislation called for cities over 100,000 and counties to make their decisions, but there was a lot of talk about leaving it to villages and towns.
At the time, city officials were divided on the matter. A straw poll conducted by the Times Herald in January 2019 found that the opt-in system proposed at the time – in which local authorities would actively seek approval for marijuana sales – would have narrowly failed before the Joint Council, but likely also by Aiello Vetoed if it had passed.
“I’ve probably softened my stance on this,” said Aiello on Friday, now noting that the state has taken action: “It’s here – it will be here.”
Last time he remarked, “There would be nothing for the communities,” he said, with no direct benefit beyond regular sales tax.
However, the decision does not go to the mayor.
“Ultimately, it is the decision of the Joint Council,” said Aiello. “There are still many unknowns in this law.”
Aiello noted that the city can use zoning to keep pharmacies out of schools, for example, and he hopes to work with the New York City Council of Mayors to develop best practices and draft guidelines.
“We now have a few months before a decision has to be made,” said the mayor. The earliest stores are unlikely to open in nearly two years. “We’ll have some time.”
The mayor noted that while the city cannot ban personal use, there are already restrictions. State law prohibits the use of marijuana in any place where tobacco use is prohibited by law. Olean has included all city parks and state land since 2019.
Council Chairman John Crawford, D-Ward 5, said he was cautiously optimistic and did not expect the council to rule against a rejection.
“I think there are still a lot of unknowns,” Crawford said, including the law enforcement implications – particularly in terms of how driving is handled in impaired cases, as well as the impact on community drug abuse programs.
But on the surface, the bill seems to offer many financial benefits for something that many people have – national surveys show that between 10% and 15% of adults use marijuana regularly, which is roughly the same as tobacco use.
The city’s position as an economic and population center in the area means the city is ideally located to benefit from sales – and sales taxes – Crawford said, adding that this could benefit industries like tourism and teleworking, which the city guides hope to encourage.
“This is an opportunity we are all keeping open,” Crawford said. “We have to find out what is best for the community. There are many opportunities to explore … but there are challenges and risks with every opportunity, ”he said. “There’s always a catch and we have to make an informed decision.”
Now, Crawford said, it is time for the city to gather information on the number, location and restrictions of pharmacies before the stores open.
“We have to do our best … we want to be able to take the first steps,” he said in hopes that the city code and zones will be changed to encourage development.
IN ALLEGANYMayor Greg Pearl said the village and city will not make a decision on the matter until a joint meeting can be held.
“At that point the village and town will sit down and do their best,” said Pearl. “We’ll be on the same page when we get out of here because the village is in the city.”
Pearl said the meeting would probably not take place until after the Easter break with Allegany Town Supervisor Jim Hitchcock and the two board members.
“I don’t think it’s going to be difficult,” added Pearl. “As long as (the village and the city) don’t tarnish it with other things, it will be fine.”
IN PORTVILLE, The village board of trustees and Mayor Anthony Evans have not discussed the new law.
“It was coming our way and I think the villages are kind of waiting for the county to take over,” said Evans.
He pointed out that the law is so new and that with the two week spring break in the Portville Central School District, many of the people who would be included in the discussion are out of town.
“I can tell you that the police have some concerns about the law,” Evans continued. “We haven’t got that far in business. My guess is that there will be changes and revisions. “
Evans said that without a public hearing, the village government would not make any decisions to seek the opinions of villagers.
“As I said about channeling the (Buffalo) Bills, residents are the owners and we don’t make life-impact decisions without hearing from them,” he said.