LAKE PLACID – As the deadline for the city of North Elba to decide whether or not to allow cannabis sales and licenses for local use here, the city council delayed the decision on Tuesday after the city councils lacked consensus had achieved.
When adult marijuana use was legalized in New York earlier this year, the state’s cannabis law gave municipalities the ability to ban pharmacies and / or outlets within their borders. Cities, villages and towns have until December 31st to opt out for one or the other, otherwise they will be automatically signed in for both.
The city of North Elba and the village of Lake Placid worked together last month to hold a public briefing on the law and residents had the opportunity to send their opinions and feedback to the city for 10 days after that meeting. But now some councilors are saying they need to consider even more about the impact of participation on the community.
Since March when the state law was signed, City Mayor Jay Rand has stated that he is against the sale and use of cannabis within city limits. In April he said he would “do everything” to “Keep (cannabis) outside.” On Tuesday, he said he was in favor of eliminating cannabis sale and consumption sites for the city to do “See how things go a little better.” He said he wanted to consider some unknowns, such as how the police would enforce drunk driving.
Councilor Emily Politi objected to an opt-out because she said many of the unknown factors surrounding cannabis dispensaries and consumption points would be screened and regulated by the cannabis control board.
“In my opinion, it’s the same as alcohol. It is regulated in the same way – it is the same. “ she said Tuesday. “So why are we trying to say it’s not the same?”
City Attorney Ron Briggs was present at the meeting and suggested that the city collect more data on the widespread effects of marijuana use across the country and among younger people before making a decision.
“The more it is socially accepted, the more likely it is that young people will use it – and it is amusing.” said Briggs.
Politi said there was no data to support this claim.
Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, it is illegal for pharmacies to sell cannabis products to anyone under the age of 21, and sellers can refuse to sell to anyone they believe is a minor or is buying for a minor.
Briggs said he saw no harm in staying on the subject for a while, but Politi said the city would be deprived of tax revenue during that time. There will be a 13% tax on the sale of cannabis products, and the state will give municipalities a 3% cut and counties that choose to do it a 1% cut.
Councilor Dick Cummings sided with Politi. He said cannabis users would head to Saranac Lake for their products and divert that revenue out of the city if the city opted out of pharmacies. He also said that opting for pharmacies would allow the city to regulate the quality and content of the cannabis sold, which unregulated marijuana sales do not.
“And you will be identified” Politi added. “You will not be identified on the street.”
Alderman Derek Doty said he likes that pharmacies are regulated with “Eyes” on them. He said the city couldn’t bury its head in the sand and hope cannabis will go away.
“It’s here every day” he said.
He said he wanted to opt out of consumption websites, but he could go either way with pharmacies. He said he’d rather have some control over cannabis than “leave it open.”
While Councilor Jack Favro’s opinion on pharmacies was not clear at the meeting, he said on Wednesday that he is in favor for the time being. He agrees with Rand’s argument that there is more information to consider. He said he was stronger for giving up consuming sites.
On Wednesday, Politi said she wished the board had more public opinion on consumer sites because it could go either way. However, she said that she thought some of her fellow board members had a tendency to log out of websites and she said that she was okay with that.
Rand recommended that board members attend an addiction prevention presentation in the auditorium of Lake Placid High School on Thursday for more information, although Politi said the content of that presentation was unrelated to the cannabis law decision.
The Board of Directors is expected to re-discuss the cannabis law decision at its meeting on November 9th in the North Elba Town Hall. The public can attend the meeting in person or virtually.
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