With cannabis sales already underway at its stores in Cayuga and Seneca counties, the Cayuga Nation plans to begin growing the plant commercially by the end of the year.
In a news release Monday, the nation announced that it will grow cannabis at an indoor, 15,000-square-foot building on its Gakwiyo (Cayuga for „good food”) Garden property in Seneca Falls.
Architectural firm Bergmann, of Rochester, will oversee development of the facility, and Jake Brewer will oversee development of the nation’s cannabis businesses. Brewer previously served as head grower for a cannabis company in Colorado, the nation said. It is now finalizing blueprints for the facility with Bergmann, and construction will begin this year.
The facility will „likely” open by the end of the year, the nation said.
“As a sovereign nation, the Cayuga Nation can grow and sell cannabis within its reservation’s boundaries,” the nation said in a statement.
„Similar to the Nation’s other economic development initiatives, cannabis presents an opportunity to generate economic growth for the Nation and its members, while creating jobs for the community. Developing our cannabis business is the next step in expanding and diversifying the Cayuga Nation’s economic opportunities and providing long-lasting benefits to the community. Our vision for the future of the Cayuga Nation remains focused on bettering the lives of our members, our community, and our neighbors. As we venture forward in our economic development, we remain committed to working closely with local governments to ensure the health and safety of our community.”
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The nation received approval from the USDA to grow and sell hemp (cannabis with .3% THC content or less) on its land in 2020. Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation allowing the state’s hemp farmers to apply for conditional licenses to grow cannabis in order to „jumpstart the safe, equitable and inclusive new industry we are building,” she said in a press release.
The nation began selling untaxed cannabis at the Union Springs and Seneca Falls locations of its Lakeside Trading business last fall. Though the state has yet to begin licensing retail dispensaries — a process that possibly won’t begin until 2023 — the nation is already able to sell cannabis due to tribal sovereignty, the state Office of Cannabis Management has affirmed.
The state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, passed in March 2021, prohibits holders of dispensary licenses from also holding cultivation, processing or distribution licenses. The rule is one of many in the law meant to prevent vertical integration in the state’s new cannabis industry. However, the nation said „as a sovereign entity (it) is not limited or bound by local prohibitions.”
Coverage: Cayuga County area prepares for legal cannabis
Union Springs revises marijuana law to allow Cayuga Nation sales
Hoping to avoid a legal battle with the Cayuga Nation, the village of Union Springs has revised its draft of a local law opting out of parts of the state’s Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act.
The revision proposes the creation of a new zoning district that contains Lakeside Trading, the gas station and tobacco shop the nation operates in the northern part of the village. The new district would be zoned highway commercial. Its allowable uses would include marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites, and with a special permit, wholesale growth and distribution.
So while the rest of the village would opt out of those parts of the state law, the highway commercial district would not, Union Springs Mayor Bud Shattuck told The Citizen on Thursday.
The village made the revision in hopes it will encourage the Cayuga Nation to decide to conduct any marijuana business at Lakeside Trading and not elsewhere in Union Springs, Shattuck said.
Specifically, the village believes the nation plans to open a dispensary at the former Gus’s Pizzeria at 121 Cayuga St. The nation closed its purchase of the property in June. Feeling a dispensary there would cause heavy traffic in the village and negatively affect youth because of its proximity to a school, the village introduced its local law in April, days after the passage of the state law.
After the nation suggested it could challenge the local law on the grounds of tribal sovereignty, however, the village revised it with what Shattuck described as „a compromise.” He has yet to communicate with the nation about the zoning proposal, so he doesn’t know whether it will change the nation’s plans. But he believes it makes sense for the nation to do so.
A third Cayuga County municipality has made known its plans to opt out of parts of the state’s new marijuana law, and will hold a public heari…
„They now have a place where they can legally (sell marijuana), without having to fight the state,” Shattuck said. „They can stay out of our downtown and stay out of our school district.”
Asked about its plans to sell marijuana, a nation representative offered only the following statement: „As a sovereign Indian nation, the Cayuga Nation commerce in the village of Union Springs would not be limited by a local law prohibiting retail marijuana sales. The nation continues to explore such opportunities throughout its historic 64,015-acre reservation.”
On Thursday, the local law was determined to have no intermunicipal impacts by the Cayuga County General Municipal Law 239-l, m & n Review Committee, clearing the way for its passage by the village board of trustees at one of its next meetings. But first, a public hearing about the law will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 20, at the Union Springs Village Office, 26 Chapel St.
Shattuck doesn’t anticipate much opposition to the local law. At a public hearing for its first draft held in April, 19 of the 23 people who spoke voiced support for it, he said. Two of the opposed cited their use of marijuana and two cited the tax revenue its sale would offer. When they begin in April 2022, sales will be taxed at 13%: 9% for the state, 3% for the municipality and 1% for the county.
Because the Cayuga Nation doesn’t pay taxes, Shattuck said, Union Springs would not see revenue from its sales. But he believes that allowing the nation to sell marijuana at Lakeside Trading could save the village the cost of a court battle. And there’s room within the proposed district for other businesses to open dispensaries or consumption sites that would generate revenue, Shattuck noted.
„So this sort of makes it so we don’t opt out,” he said. „But most of the community wants (marijuana) out of the school zone and the downtown business area.”
Two Cayuga County municipalities moving forward with marijuana opt-out
Two municipalities in Cayuga County are moving forward with local laws opting out of parts of New York state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.
The town of Brutus and the village of Union Springs intend to opt out of allowing marijuana dispensaries to open and consumption site licenses to be issued within their limits. The state law, signed March 31, lets municipalities do that. They cannot opt out of allowing people to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana, grow up to six plants at home or use marijuana in private and select public spaces.
The Brutus Town Board decided to opt out at its June 14 meeting for a few reasons, town Supervisor James Hotaling told The Citizen on Wednesday.
The board felt the community has „enough problems,” Hotaling said, and wondered „what kind of signal we’d be sending.” Some members „felt very strongly” about marijuana with regard to the town’s youth, he continued. Brutus also doesn’t have many commercially zoned properties where a marijuana dispensary or licensed consumption site could open.
With those reasons in mind, the board decided to opt out knowing it can opt back in later. The state will not let municipalities do the opposite, Hotaling noted. The deadline for opting out is Dec. 31.
„I suggested to the board to have a vote by the people in the community, but the more we discussed it the more we decided to opt out and see what happens down the road,” he said.
The town’s attorney will draft the law and the Brutus Town Board will look to pass it at the board’s next meeting on July 12, Hotaling said.
The law would not apply to the village of Weedsport, whose mayor, Tom Winslow, told The Citizen Wednesday that the village board wants to solicit more input from residents before making a decision. The matter was also discussed at a board workshop meeting on Thursday, where Winslow presented information on the state law he collected at a conference of the New York Conference of Mayors.
Auburn City Council took its first public step toward deciding whether to opt out of parts of the state’s law legalizing recreational marijuan…
Meanwhile, the village of Union Springs has altered its plans to opt out. Mayor Bud Shattuck told The Citizen on Wednesday that the original draft of the village’s law, written in April, has been revised. He declined to share the revisions, as the members of the village board have yet to hear them. He will present them at a special board meeting sometime in the next few weeks.
The law will then be presented to the Cayuga County General Municipal Law 239-l, m & n Review Committee in July to determine any intermunicipal impacts. If the committee finds none, the village will look to pass the law at its next meeting on July 20. Shattuck said the village will then host a public referendum on the law within the 45 days required by the state.
Anyone registered in the last local election will be eligible to vote in the referendum, Shattuck said.
„It’s fair to the people who are against opting out, and some people in the community are,” he said. „It seems like the reasonable thing for the village board to do.”
The revisions were made to the village’s law for the same reason the board is moving quickly to pass it: the possibility of the Cayuga Nation opening a dispensary at 121 Cayuga St. The nation closed on the property, formerly Gus’s Pizzeria, for $225,000 this month. The board has voiced concerns that a dispensary in that location would create traffic jams and negatively influence youth.
However, the village is also concerned the Cayuga Nation could challenge the local law on the grounds of tribal sovereignty.
A spokesperson for the nation confirmed to The Citizen that while it is exploring the possibility of opening retail marijuana dispensaries, „the local law would not impact the Cayuga Nation’s decision.”
Under the revisions to the village’s law, Shattuck said, the nation would be able to sell marijuana outside the historic district, such as Lakeside Trading. He hopes the Cayugas take that opportunity.
But if the nation indeed tries to open a dispensary at 121 Cayuga St., Shattuck acknowledged that the matter could go to court. In that case, he hopes the state would serve as the village’s „legal guardian,” since its law would be the origin of the conflict. Whatever happens, Shattuck said, he believes the village has made the effort to accommodate both sides.
„We’ll do whatever we have to do and they’ll do whatever they have to do after our law is passed and the votes are in,” he said.
Town, village of Skaneateles to hear public on marijuana 'opt out’
The town and village of Skaneateles will each hear from the public one more time before making their decisions about „opting out” of parts of the state’s new marijuana law by the end of the year.
Each municipality will hold a public hearing this month as the Dec. 31 deadline looms for opting out, or passing local laws that prohibit marijuana dispensaries and/or consumption sites there.
The town board’s hearing will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, at the town hall at 24 Jordan St. Due to COVID-19, those who can attend by Zoom are encouraged to do so.
The village board’s hearing will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21, at the village hall at 26 Fennell St. Phone and video conferencing will also be available for that hearing.
While members of each board have introduced local laws for consideration, both town Supervisor Janet Aaron and village Mayor Mary Sennett are declining to speculate what the boards will decide.
Aaron told The Citizen that the town’s law, introduced by board member Kevin McCormack, may or may not be voted on after the Dec. 6 hearing. The outcome of the hearing, and the law itself, are both wide open. It will be the third public hearing on marijuana for the board, and if it’s anything like the first two, it will see passionate comments on both sides of the issue, Aaron said.
„We’re hearing from both sides not only by letters and meetings, but also out in the public,” she said.
„The members of the board are doing a lot of research. They’re very prepared to understand what they have to consider.”
Sennett, meanwhile, declined comment to The Citizen except to confirm that the village board will vote on opting out after the Dec. 21 hearing.
Both the town and the village have introduced two local laws each, one for marijuana dispensaries and one for consumption sites.
Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act passed by New York state in March, municipalities can opt out of those two parts of the law only. They cannot prohibit use, possession or, eventually, commercial or home growth of marijuana. While they have until Dec. 31 to opt out, municipalities that do so can reverse the decision by repealing their local laws at any time. Residents of municipalities that opt out also have 45 days until the local law takes effect to petition for a permissive referendum that would put it up for a public vote at a special election.
In the Cayuga County area, the towns of Brutus, Fleming, Locke, Mentz, Niles, Scipio, Sennett and Springport, and the villages of Aurora, Fair Haven, Port Byron and Union Springs have opted out or are in the process of doing so. The city of Auburn will not opt out. The state is expected to begin licensing marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites sometime after April 1.
Town of Skaneateles OKs marijuana sales but not consumption sites at fiery meeting
After another tense public hearing where more than 20 residents spoke, the Skaneateles Town Board voted Monday to „opt out” of marijuana consumption sites, but not dispensaries.
The latter decision provoked outrage from the packed room at Skaneateles Town Hall, where attendees shouted „unbelievable,” „this is pathetic,” „you all should be voted out” and more at the board.
Councilor Kevin McCormack, who introduced the local law prohibiting marijuana dispensaries in the town, walked out of the meeting in disgust after his motion to pass it went unseconded.
The remaining board members then unanimously passed the local law prohibiting consumption sites in the town. As the meeting concluded, Councilor Mark Tucker asked if the dispensary law could be reconsidered at the board’s next meeting Dec. 20. He was told by town attorney Brody Smith that it could, as the law had effectively been tabled, not defeated.
Municipalities in New York state have until Dec. 31 to „opt out” of dispensaries and consumption sites, or pass local laws prohibiting them inside their borders.
The deadline, which comes from the state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act passed in March, was criticized as „rushed” by several of the town residents who spoke Monday. Speaking before the board’s vote, McCormack said the town should wait until it receives the final rules and regulations for licensing marijuana businesses before committing to allowing them there.
Those who spoke in favor of opting out also claimed that allowing those businesses would compromise the moral character of the town.
„I wonder what message this would send to young people,” said Dessa Bergan, a former teacher. „What we put our penny on is what we value. Do we want to tell our children, go ahead and use pot?”
Another resident, Patricia Carroll, argued that Skaneateles should be „above” collecting tax revenue from marijuana businesses. As many residents pointed out, municipalities that don’t opt out will collect a 3% tax from marijuana sales there, while counties will collect a 1% tax. Carroll went on to say that she doesn’t believe the town would collect a significant amount of tax revenue.
Though the village of Skaneateles is not affected by the town’s decision, sales that take place there could send additional tax revenue to the town if it doesn’t opt out.
Other residents voiced concerns that dispensaries and consumption sites in the town would increase the amount of impaired driving in the area, but the validity of that claim was questioned. Some asked why the same concern doesn’t extend to alcohol, with one resident telling the board, „If you opt out, my opinion is that you need to close the bars. Let’s have a dry town.”
Resident Skip Lockwood said marijuana licenses would likely be issued more stringently than liquor licenses. Dispensaries, he continued, look more like Apple stores than bars or liquor stores.
„We’re talking about a product that is safer and more highly regulated than ones you all use regularly,” he said, adding that dispensaries will probably be limited to a handful per legislative district.
Along with Josh Allyn, owner of hemp farm Tap Root Fields in the town, Lockwood also said that opting out disregards the agricultural benefits of marijuana’s legalization.
„Much like our wineries, breweries and distilleries, growing marijuana will be a key product in our area and something we should embrace,” he said.
Before the hearing began, town Supervisor Janet Aaron said the board has researched marijuana extensively, even touring growing facilities. Councilor Courtney Alexander later raised the little-known issue of microbusinesses, which appear to be a loophole in the opt-out process. Such businesses would likely be able to sell marijuana even in municipalities that opt out, Smith confirmed.
The board has also solicited public opinion on marijuana at two previous town hearings, Aaron continued, along with receiving several calls and letters, and actively reaching out to the community.
„This board has done more public involvement (on opting out) than any other board I know,” Aaron said.
As municipalities in the Cayuga County area decide whether to „opt out” of marijuana sales and consumption sites in response to New York state…
Tensions high at Skaneateles meeting on marijuana
SKANEATELES — The town of Skaneateles held a somewhat heated public information meeting Tuesday about New York state’s recently passed law legalizing recreational marijuana.
A little-known aspect of the law was the focus of much of the meeting, which eventually saw residents sharing a wide range of opinions about the law and the substance itself.
Presenting at the meeting was attorney Michael Balestra of Hancock Estabrook, who took the 30 residents in attendance at the Austin Park Pavilion through the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act signed into law March 31 by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The reason for the meeting, Balestra explained, is that the town and village of Skaneateles can opt out of two parts of the law: allowing retail marijuana sales at dispensaries and allowing consumption sites. If so, their boards must draft local laws, which would be subject to referendums if enough residents petition for one.
Municipalities have until Dec. 31 to opt out, Balestra said, but can repeal their local laws any time afterward. Every other part of the new state law will be in effect in Skaneateles regardless, Balestra continued. That includes the legalization of possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana, use of the substance and, eventually, growing up to three mature and three immature plants at home.
„This is something that most people don’t see in their lifetimes. We’re literally taking a new product that we’ve never been able to legally have and now we’re saying to everyone, 'This is a new commodity. We can make it, we can sell it, we can use it,'” Balestra said. „The state already decided where we’re going. You can’t keep marijuana out of the town or the village.”
As residents began raising their hands with questions, Balestra stressed that the particulars of the state’s law have yet to be finalized. The new Office of Cannabis Management, which will oversee the substance in New York, is currently „a shell,” he said. Until its board is appointed and its regulations are drafted, the timetable and other details of licensing marijuana businesses is unknown.
Hoping to avoid a legal battle with the Cayuga Nation, the village of Union Springs has revised its draft of a local law opting out of parts o…
That includes growers, dispensaries, consumption sites and microbusinesses — which would become a recurring subject of questions at the meeting. Microbusinesses, Balestra explained, are licensed to grow, process, distribute and dispense marijuana. But municipalities cannot opt out of allowing them the way they can with traditional dispensaries, effectively making microbusinesses a loophole.
Due to the lack of regulatory language from the state, however, Balestra couldn’t provide more specifics on microbusinesses Tuesday. For instance, it’s uncertain whether they can be operated out of residences, but he believes zoning laws will likely make that question moot. The amount of marijuana a microbusiness is limited to growing and processing is also unknown, he said.
Another microbusiness question the attorney was unable to answer involved tax revenue. Dispensary sales of marijuana will carry a 4% local tax on top of the state’s 9% tax: 3% for the municipality and 1% for the county. Municipalities that opt out of allowing dispensaries will not see that revenue, Balestra said, but it’s unknown whether they will see revenue from microbusiness sales as well.
About halfway through the meeting, questions about microbusinesses and other aspects of the state’s law gave way to comments on the possibility of the town or village of Skaneateles opting out.
Among the most vocal supporters of the village allowing dispensaries and consumption sites was Joshua Allyn, owner of area hemp farm Tap Root Fields.
„I think about the school that we’re building right now, and this would be a great resource,” he said. „Really, by saying 'no’ to this, you’re turning down a lot of money that would be potentially generated for the town. And it’s here. There’s really nothing that you can do about taking it back. Really, you’re deciding on collecting money or not. And I’d hate to see you not.”
Several Skaneateles residents who work in health care also commented at the meeting. After one praised its medical applications, another health care provider, Kira Fiutak, disagreed.
„We can always opt in in the future. We can never opt out. We don’t have regulations that are defined. Why rush into it?” she said.
Timree Williams, a nurse of 15 years, countered with an endorsement of marijuana based on personal experience.
„It’s incredibly sad the patients that I get who abuse alcohol and opioids. I have never once had a patient who abuses marijuana and has any kind of significant medical issues,” she said.
As residents continued sharing opinions about marijuana, town board member Chris Legg reminded them that the substance is already legal in the state.
„We really only have two things we can act on. The others are not within our control and they can happen regardless,” he said. „Those are done deals. The state has already communicated to everybody precisely how they want to see this industry grow and develop. We only have two very simple decisions to make that have consequences outside of just those two decisions.”
Town Supervisor Janet Aaron ended the meeting by telling residents the board will consider the feedback it received that night as it looks to make its decision by Dec. 31.
„We have a lot to consider and look at,” she said. „We’ve got to try to make the best decision for the community.”
Owasco, other local municipalities make marijuana 'opt out’ decisions
As more municipalities in the Cayuga County area „opt out” of parts of New York state’s marijuana law, two local towns have joined the short list of places that will „opt in.”
The towns of Owasco and Sterling have decided not to „opt out,” or pass local laws prohibiting marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites from opening there, officials told The Citizen.
Owasco town Supervisor Ed Wagner said the town decided to opt in for two reasons. First, because the town doesn’t have a business district, any marijuana dispensaries or consumption sites would have to go through Owasco’s planning and zoning boards for approval. So public hearings on those businesses would take place at that time, Wagner said.
Second, Wagner believes Owasco residents support opting in. The supervisor said he has heard no concerns about marijuana businesses from residents or other town board members.
„The casual comments that residents have made to me personally have been in favor of letting sales of marijuana in Owasco,” he said. „I have not heard one negative comment.”
Sterling town Supervisor Scott Crawford did not respond to requests for comment, but town Clerk Lisa Cooper confirmed to The Citizen that the northern Cayuga County town is also opting in.
Meanwhile, the towns of Scipio and Elbridge, and the village of Moravia, have opted out or plan to, officials told The Citizen.
After a public hearing Wednesday, Scipio will likely vote to opt out Dec. 29, town Supervisor Gary Mutchler said. The majority of the town board feels the benefits of opting out outweigh those of opting in, he continued, including the 3% tax municipalities will collect from marijuana sales there. Counties where sales take place will collect revenue from an additional 1% tax.
For Elbridge town Supervisor Vern Richardson, the benefits of opting out include waiting to see New York’s final regulations for marijuana businesses. The state has yet to release them since passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act in March. After delays in the appointment of officers to the state’s Cannabis Control Board, marijuana sales aren’t expected to begin until 2023.
The Elbridge Town Board unanimously passed its local laws opting out on Thursday. Richardson said three people attended the public hearing before the vote, and only one of them spoke.
„There are just a lot of questions that we need answers to, and the state hasn’t come up with those answers yet,” Richardson said. „The state has made it unclear how it’s going to operate.”
The village of Moravia will hold its public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13. Mayor Gary Mulvaney told The Citizen the village will likely opt out later this month, but the decision ultimately depends on the feedback it receives at the hearing. He pointed out that municipalities only have until Dec. 31 to opt out, but they can opt back in by repealing their local laws at any time afterward.
„I don’t think we know enough about what the rules are going to be,” Mulvaney said. „I think that’s the sanest way, to keep our options open.”
Scipio, Elbridge and Moravia will therefore join the towns of Brutus, Conquest, Fleming, Genoa, Ira, Locke, Mentz, Niles, Sennett and Springport, and the villages of Aurora, Cato, Elbridge, Fair Haven, Port Byron, Weedsport and Union Springs on the list of municipalities in the Cayuga County area that have opted out or are in the process of doing so.
The city of Auburn, the towns of Moravia and Victory, and the village of Cayuga will not opt out.
The town of Skaneateles has opted out of marijuana consumption sites but not dispensaries, and the town of Sennett will hold a public hearing about opting out at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16.
As municipalities in the Cayuga County area decide whether to „opt out” of marijuana sales and consumption sites in response to New York state…
No weed sales in Weedsport: Village to 'opt out’ of parts of state law
Despite its name, the village of Weedsport does not plan on becoming a place where marijuana can be legally purchased.
In response to New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, the Cayuga County village has drafted a local law that will prohibit marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites from opening there. The state law, which took effect March 31, allows municipalities to „opt out” of those two parts of it. They cannot opt out of any other parts, including the use, possession and growth of marijuana.
Before it can be passed, Weedsport’s law must be reviewed by the county’s General Municipal Law committee at its Nov. 18 meeting. The committee has found no intermunicipal impacts of similar laws from other Cayuga County municipalities, making Weedsport’s likely to clear its review. The village board would then pass the law at its Dec. 8 meeting, Mayor Tom Winslow told The Citizen Friday.
Winslow said Weedsport decided to opt out after receiving the results of a survey mailed to residents with their water bills. About two-thirds of those who responded were against the village allowing marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites to open there. The board received „a lot more” survey responses than it expected, Winslow added, giving it reason to believe the law accurately reflects the wishes of a majority of residents. Those who object to the law have 45 days until it takes effect to petition for a permissive referendum that would put it up for a public vote at a special election.
The board also believed opting out was the best decision, Winslow said, because the state has yet to release its final rules and regulations for dispensaries and consumption sites. When the state law was passed, those businesses were expected to begin opening as soon as April 1. But delays in the appointment of officers to the state’s Cannabis Control Board have likely pushed that date back.
The decisions of neighboring municipalities and potential revenue from marijuana sales didn’t influence the village board much, Winslow said. The town of Brutus and village of Port Byron have opted out, decreasing competition for would-be marijuana businesses in Weedsport. But while the village would collect a 3% tax on their sales, the mayor believes they could come with new expenses, too.
„Would it require more police presence? Would the revenue support the resources it would take to monitor the marijuana industry?” he asked. „We didn’t know if it was going to be enough.”
New York state municipalities have until Dec. 31 to opt out of allowing dispensaries and consumption sites to open there. Municipalities that do can opt back in at any time by repealing their local laws.
Along with Weedsport, Brutus and Port Byron, Cayuga County municipalities that have opted out, or are in the process of doing so, include the towns of Fleming, Locke, Mentz and Springport, and the villages of Aurora, Fair Haven and Union Springs. The towns of Sennett and Victory are the only municipalities that have declared they will not opt out. Others have yet to announce a decision.
More Cayuga County-area municipalities 'opt out’ of marijuana businesses
Now that the Dec. 31 deadline for „opting out” of select marijuana businesses has passed, the decisions of almost all municipalities in the Cayuga County area are known.
According to The Citizen’s reporting and a tracker maintained by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the decisions of all but two area municipalities — the towns of Sempronius and Throop — can be confirmed at this time. Emails and voice messages left with officials from those towns by The Citizen this week were not returned.
Recent confirmations include the towns of Venice and Scipio, and the village of Jordan. All three „opted out,” or passed local laws prohibiting marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites.
Venice Supervisor Stefan McGonagle, Scipio Supervisor Gary Mutchler and Jordan Mayor Casey Brim told The Citizen they made their decisions based on a combination of feedback from residents and concerns that the state has yet to issue final regulations for marijuana businesses. Venice residents who attended board meetings unanimously supported opting out, McGonagle said. Scipio residents at a Dec. 8 public hearing said they believe marijuana is addictive and a „gateway drug,” Mutchler said. Jordan held a public hearing, Brim said, but no one attended.
As Mutchler noted, municipalities could only opt out before Dec. 31. But they can opt back into allowing marijuana businesses at any time by repealing their local laws. Additionally, residents of a municipality that opts out have 45 days before the local law takes effect to petition for a permissive referendum that would put the law up for a public vote at a special election.
Municipalities cannot opt out of allowing marijuana use, limited possession and, eventually, limited home growth and other businesses, such as cultivation and processing.
The Citizen has also recently confirmed that the town of Montezuma decided not to opt out. The town joins the city of Auburn, the towns of Aurelius, Moravia, Owasco, Sterling and Victory, and the village of Cayuga on the list of local municipalities that will allow marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites to open inside their borders.
The list of local municipalities that have opted out is longer. There, Venice, Scipio and Jordan join the towns of Brutus, Cato, Conquest, Elbridge, Fleming, Genoa, Ira, Ledyard, Locke, Mentz, Niles, Scipio, Sennett, Springport and Summerhill, and the villages of Aurora, Cato, Elbridge, Fair Haven, Moravia, Port Byron, Skaneateles, Union Springs and Weedsport.
Union Springs opted out with a caveat, rezoning the part of the village containing Cayuga Nation business Lakeside Trading so marijuana sales could take place there. The nation has begun sales there already. The town of Skaneateles is the only municipality in the area to split its decision, opting out of consumption sites but allowing dispensaries to open there.
According to a recent Q&A with Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board created by the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act passed by New York state in March, marijuana dispensaries should be licensed to operate by summer of 2023. Delays in appointments to the board pushed the date back from its original plan of April 2022.
The regulations that gave municipalities pause about opting in should be finalized in the first quarter of this year, Wright added.
More Cayuga County municipalities 'opt out’ of marijuana sales; one says it won’t
As the Dec. 31 deadline approaches for municipalities to „opt out” of parts of New York state’s new marijuana law, several in the Cayuga County area are choosing to do so.
The village of Aurora and the town of Fleming recently joined the towns of Springport and Brutus on the list of area municipalities that have passed local laws prohibiting marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites from being licensed to operate there. Municipalities cannot opt out of any other parts of the state law, including the use, possession and home growth of marijuana.
Additional municipalities have drafted local laws, but not yet passed them. The town of Locke and villages of Cato and Fair Haven recently joined the village of Union Springs on that list. Those three municipalities had their drafts reviewed by the county’s General Municipal Law committee at its Oct. 21 meeting. The committee found no intermunicipal impact, clearing the way for the laws’ passage.
Most local municipalities with significant commercial areas have yet to make a decision, including the city of Auburn, the town and village of Skaneateles, and the town of Aurelius. The Skaneateles Town Board, which has received and read several letters at recent meetings calling for it to opt out, has scheduled a second public hearing on the matter at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, on Zoom.
Meanwhile, one municipality with a significant commercial area has become one of, if not the first in the Cayuga County area to say that it won’t opt out: the town of Sennett. Municipalities that choose not to opt out can simply do nothing, as the state law will permit the licensing of marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites by default when that process begins sometime after April 1, 2022.
A representative of the Sennett Town Board told The Citizen that it decided not to opt out because it believes the city of Auburn, with whom Sennett shares the commercial strip of Grant Avenue, won’t opt out either. That positions the town to collect tax revenue at a rate of 3% from sales at any dispensaries or consumption sites that open there, with an additional 1% going to the county.
While municipalities can only opt out of allowing dispensaries and consumption sites before Dec. 31, the state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act lets them opt back in at any time afterward.
Residents who object to their municipality’s decision to opt out also have 45 days before the local law takes effect to petition for a permissive referendum that would put the law up for a public vote. At least 10% of the municipality’s residents who voted in the last governor’s election (2018) would have to sign the petition. It would then be filed with the clerk in order to call for a special election.
However, the new state law does not provide further details about the operation of dispensaries and consumption sites. Those will be finalized by the state’s Cannabis Control Board, which only held its first meeting Oct. 5 due to delays in the appointment of its officers. Without those details, like how close two dispensaries can be located, the village of Aurora decided to opt out.
„We just thought we’d wait and see what happens,” Aurora Mayor Bonnie Apgar Bennett told The Citizen. „It just seemed to make sense, until we have a little more information.”
The village passed its local law at the Sept. 15 meeting of its board of trustees. Bennett said the board held a public hearing on the law but, to her surprise, received no feedback. Other factors in the decision included the scarcity of parking and commercial spaces in the lakeside village. Bennett said the presence of Wells College there had no bearing on the board’s decision.
The town of Fleming passed its local law, 4-0, at its Sept. 13 board meeting. Locke Town Clerk Melanie Funk said its board will discuss its local law at its next meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4. A representative of the village of Cato could not be immediately reached for comment by The Citizen, and no recent meeting agendas or minutes are available from the village’s website.
The Fair Haven Board of Trustees discussed opting out at a special meeting on Aug. 25. According to minutes from the meeting, the trustees shared the Aurora board’s questions about the details of dispensary and consumption site operations. Those questions included the number of marijuana businesses the state will license and, given the value of the product, the security they’ll require.
Marijuana sales: Two villages in Cayuga County area 'opt out,’ two towns don’t
As the Dec. 31 deadline approaches, two villages in the Cayuga County area have decided to „opt out” of parts of New York state’s new marijuana law, and two towns have decided not to.
The villages of Skaneateles and Moravia passed local laws „opting out,” or prohibiting marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites from opening there, at recent meetings.
The towns of Aurelius and Moravia, meanwhile, decided not to pass similar laws, and will therefore „opt in” to allowing those businesses to open inside their borders by default.
Skaneateles opted out after a Dec. 21 public hearing, Mayor Mary Sennett told The Citizen. The village board of trustees was split, ultimately passing its local laws 3-2. Though some trustees felt the new Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act makes the substance a right the village can’t take away, the majority felt marijuana businesses aren’t „appropriate” for Skaneateles, Sennett said.
Neither the 3% marijuana sales tax for municipalities nor the state’s lack of final regulations for dispensaries and consumption sites were major considerations, the mayor added.
In the village of Moravia, the lack of final regulations was the major reason its board of trustees voted to opt out Monday night, Mayor Gary Mulvaney told The Citizen. As he noted, municipalities that opt out can opt back in at any time by repealing their local laws, but they can’t opt out after Dec. 31. So he believes it’s wise to keep the village’s options open until the regulations are finalized.
„What’s the big rush?” Mulvaney asked, noting that marijuana sales in New York aren’t expected to begin until 2023 due to delays in the appointment of officers to the state’s Cannabis Control Board.
Mulvaney added that Moravia held a public forum on the matter earlier this month, and only two people attended. Both supported the village opting out of dispensaries and consumption sites.
Moravia and Skaneateles now find themselves in the unique position of being villages that have opted out and are located in towns that haven’t completely done the same. The town of Moravia decided not to opt out in November, while the town of Skaneateles only passed a local law prohibiting consumption sites, not dispensaries, to the consternation of residents at a Dec. 6 meeting.
The town of Aurelius also recently joined the short list of local municipalities that aren’t opting out. Town Supervisor Edward Ide told The Citizen that because the neighboring city of Auburn isn’t opting out, the town will be „burdened with the negative effects” of the state’s marijuana law regardless. The town shares heavily commercial areas on Genesee Street and Routes 5 and 20 with the city.
„We might as well get the revenue if we are going to (bear) the negative effects anyway,” Ide said in an email.
Along with Auburn, Moravia and Aurelius, the towns of Owasco, Sterling and Victory, and the village of Cayuga, are the only municipalities in the Cayuga County area The Citizen can confirm will not opt out of marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites. Municipalities that have opted out, or plan to before Dec. 31, include the towns of Brutus, Cato, Conquest, Elbridge, Fleming, Genoa, Ira, Locke, Mentz, Niles, Scipio, Sennett, Springport and Summerhill, and the villages of Aurora, Cato, Elbridge, Fair Haven, Port Byron, Weedsport and Union Springs.
As municipalities in the Cayuga County area decide whether to „opt out” of marijuana sales and consumption sites in response to New York state…
City of Auburn won’t 'opt out’ of marijuana sales
With its mayor and city councilors unanimously opposed to doing so, Auburn will not „opt out” of allowing recreational marijuana retailers and consumption sites in the city.
Mayor Michael Quill and City Councilors Jimmy Giannettino, Terry Cuddy, Debby McCormick and Tim Locastro each told The Citizen this week they do not support passing a local law that would prohibit those businesses from opening in Auburn. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act signed into law by former New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo last spring gives municipalities until Dec. 31 to pass such local laws. But with none of the city’s five deciding votes in favor, it’s all but certain Auburn will not opt out before that deadline.
Giannettino noted that municipalities cannot opt out of any other parts of the state law, which legalized possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana and use of it in most places using tobacco is legal in New York. Limited home growth of marijuana will also be legal after the state’s new Office of Cannabis Management releases the law’s final rules and regulations.
That reality of the state law must be considered before deciding whether a municipality should opt out, Giannettino said.
„Marijuana is being decriminalized. Whether or not we allow the sale of it is the only thing we can control,” he said. „Whether we allow the sale of it or not, we’re going to have it.”
What must also be considered, Giannettino said, is that municipalities stand to collect a 3% tax from marijuana sales there. In Auburn, that money could offset any local expenses created by the state law, like the training that former Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler told The Citizen his officers will need in order to test drivers for marijuana impairment.
„With larger municipalities within driving distance of Auburn,” McCormick said, „it just makes sense to be able to reap the economic benefits of local sales.”
Giannettino said the city is listening to concerns about increased driving while impaired and other potential consequences of legal marijuana. Following an April review of the state law, city council has received feedback from the public both for and against opting out. But Giannettino struck down any suspicions that the city’s decision is related to marijuana company Terrapin’s plan to build a 100-job production facility in Technology Park. Municipalities cannot opt out of allowing such facilities, he said, and Terrapin doesn’t plan to open any retail or consumption sites.
Cannabis company Terrapin’s plans to build a production facility in Auburn took a step forward Wednesday.
Democrats Giannettino, McCormick and Cuddy also shared their confidence in New York state’s ability to regulate marijuana. They expect the Office of Cannabis Management to regulate it the way the Liquor Authority does alcohol, meaning the number of retailers and consumption sites that the office licenses should be limited. When the state law was signed, licensing of those businesses was expected to begin around April 1, 2022, but delays in the appointment of officers to the state’s Cannabis Control Board have likely pushed that date back.
Locastro, the lone Republican on city council, agreed with McCormick that opting out would only redirect tax revenue from Auburn to the municipalities that surround it.
The town of Sennett, which shares the commercial strip of Grant Avenue with Auburn, will not opt out of allowing marijuana retailers and consumption sites there, its board told The Citizen. Officials with both Sennett and the village of Weedsport told The Citizen they made their decisions about opting out with the belief that Auburn would not. Weedsport is opting out.
In Cayuga County, the towns of Brutus, Fleming, Locke, Mentz and Springport, and the villages of Aurora, Fair Haven, Port Byron and Union Springs have opted out or are in the process of doing so. The town of Aurelius, where Fingerlakes Mall and Fingerlakes Crossing are located, is still „working on it,” Town Supervisor Edward Ide told The Citizen on Oct. 28.
Whatever Aurelius and other undecided municipalities in the Cayuga County area do, Locastro would prefer to see as much tax revenue from local marijuana sales go to Auburn as possible.
„I think there’s more to gain and less to lose,” he said. „I’d like to give it a shot.”
Cayuga Nation selling marijuana at Union Springs business
New York state is still months away from allowing recreational marijuana retailers to open, but one business in Cayuga County apparently doesn’t need to wait.
The Cayuga Nation has begun selling marijuana at its Lakeside Trading business in the village of Union Springs. Spokespeople for the nation did not answer The Citizen’s questions on the matter, but an Oct. 26 Instagram post by the business said „we have cannabis” at its Union Springs and Seneca Falls locations. The former location also has a neon cannabis leaf sign in its window.
Though The New York Times called the subject „a legal gray area,” the legality of an Indian nation selling marijuana before other businesses isn’t as hazy as it may seem.
Those businesses will need to be licensed by the Cannabis Control Board created by the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act the state passed this spring. While the act legalized marijuana use and limited possession effective immediately, retail sales were instead given framework for legalization in the near future. The board must now turn that framework into final rules and regulations.
The board was expected to do that in time to begin licensing marijuana retailers by April 1, 2022, but delays in the appointment of its officers have likely pushed that date back.
Regardless, the Cayuga Nation doesn’t appear to need a license to sell marijuana due to its tribal sovereignty. That constitutional right to regulate themselves is the reason other Indian nations in New York have already begun selling marijuana on their lands, including the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council in Franklin County and the Seneca Nation in Cattaraugus County.
In a TV report on the Seneca Nation’s sales, a spokesperson for the state Office of Cannabis Management confirmed that selling marijuana on federally recognized tribal lands in New York is legal.
Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck told The Citizen he is aware the Cayuga Nation is selling marijuana at Lakeside Trading, but declined further comment.
The Cayuga Nation has also cited tribal sovereignty as grounds to continue operating its Lakeside Entertainment gaming center despite a Union Springs ordinance prohibiting it, and a federal appeals court sided with the nation on the longstanding issue in July. But when it comes to marijuana sales, the nation has the approval of the village — with some conditions.
At its November meeting, the Union Springs board passed a local law „opting out” of allowing marijuana retailers and consumption sites to open in the village, Mayor Bud Shattuck told The Citizen. In a special amendment to the law, however, the village rezoned the district containing Lakeside Trading to allow marijuana businesses to operate there, and only there.
Shattuck called the amendment „a compromise” with the nation. The board conceived it in hopes of preventing the nation from opening a marijuana retailer at 121 Cayuga St., the former Gus’s Pizzeria, in the heart of the village. The nation, which purchased the property in June, previously told Shattuck that it planned to sell marijuana there, he said.
Though he no longer communicates with the Cayuga Nation, Shattuck hopes that is no longer the plan now that marijuana sales have begun at Lakeside Trading.
„They may be able to do whatever they want wherever they want, but we’re giving them an opportunity to sell marijuana where they’re selling it now,” he said.
„And not move it down onto our sidewalks in our commercial district, where schoolchildren walk back and forth.”
Cayuga County-area municipalities weighing marijuana options
Municipalities in the Cayuga County area are weighing the pros and cons of opting out of parts of New York state’s law legalizing marijuana.
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo March 31, legalizes possession of up to 3 ounces of the drug, and public and private use of it, by New Yorkers 21 and older.
Municipalities cannot opt out of that part of the law, which has already taken effect. However, the law allows them to opt out of letting cannabis retail dispensaries open, or on-site consumption licenses be issued, within their limits. Municipalities that decide to opt out must pass a local law by Dec. 31. Retail marijuana sales in New York state are slated to begin on April 1, 2022.
Though municipalities have about nine months to make their decisions, several in the Cayuga County area are already preparing to do so.
This week, The Citizen reached out to the elected leaders of more than 15 municipalities in the area. Those that responded indicated that their legislative bodies will discuss opting out soon, including the city of Auburn and the village of Skaneateles. Their respective mayors, Michael Quill and Mary Sennett, otherwise declined comment because those discussions haven’t begun yet.
The leaders of two major Cayuga County law enforcement agencies do not support the legalization of marijuana in New York state.
Two other Cayuga County mayors, Bonnie Apgar Bennett in the village of Aurora and Tom Winslow in the village of Weedsport, shared some thoughts on opting out, and the new marijuana law in general, with The Citizen. For both mayors, the discussion of allowing retail sales and on-site consumption comes down to economic rewards versus public safety risks.
Under the law, municipalities will receive 75% of the local tax revenue generated by retail marijuana sales, with the remaining 25% going to the county. The Association of Towns of the State of New York praised the size of the share for municipalities, and its legislative director, Sarah Brancatella, told The Citizen that they should keep that revenue in mind as they make their decisions.
„However, every town in New York is unique and has its own sense of community, and ultimately towns will act in a way they feel is best for their residents,” Brancatella continued. „If towns want to get a better sense of how their residents feel about cannabis dispensaries or on-site consumption sites we’ve recommended that the town hold a public hearing or a series of community roundtables.”
Brancatella also noted that town decisions about opting out will not apply to any villages within their limits. So Aurora and Weedsport will make their own decisions regardless of Ledyard and Brutus.
That was one of the questions Bennett and Winslow had as they prepared to discuss their villages opting out.
They had more rhetorical questions, too. Bennett, for instance, wondered if it would be better for her village to have a dispensary for its residents, Wells College students, Inns of Aurora visitors and more. That might help keep people under the influence of marijuana off the road, which she said is one of her biggest concerns — especially considering the amount of teenagers who rely on driving in a rural area like hers. But at the same time, Bennett could see how not having a dispensary in the village might decrease the temptation of the drug.
Those questions, not money, will be on Bennett’s mind as Aurora decides whether to opt out.
„I don’t think it’s a decision that ought to be made on revenue. It feels like much more of a safety issue to me than any revenue we would get,” she said. „You have to think about the consequences.”
In Weedsport, Winslow described a similar dilemma. He feels certain someone will try to open a dispensary in the village given its name, he said with a laugh, so he wants to make the right decision.
Both he and Bennett said the decision-making process will also involve seeing what other municipalities in the Cayuga County area do. That will help tell them not only what their own constituents may want, but how much revenue they stand to collect. A municipality surrounded by others that have opted out might see more incentive not to do so, and vice versa.
As his village prepares to make its decision, Winslow added that he’s consulting with the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials. The association said in a statement that it believes „each community must have a voice in whether the adult-use cannabis industry operates within its boundaries, as the impacts of the cannabis industry will be most directly felt at the local level.”
Cayuga County village looks to opt out of marijuana sales
Preempting a possible attempt by the Cayuga Nation to open a marijuana dispensary, the village of Union Springs has drafted a local law prohibiting sales of the drug there.
The law would make Union Springs the first municipality in Cayuga County to opt out of parts of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo March 31.
The law, an amendment to the village’s 2013 zoning law, would prohibit marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites, as well as the sale of tobacco and tobacco products, including vaporizers and e-cigarettes. Wholesale growing and processing of marijuana and marijuana products would also be prohibited everywhere but the village’s agricultural residential and commercial zoning areas, where it would be allowable by special permit. The law says its purpose is to prevent „the negative secondary effects of cannabis and nicotine use, cultivation, processing and sale.”
Union Springs Mayor Bud Shattuck told The Citizen on Friday that any businesses in the village that sell tobacco and tobacco products, namely the Cayuga Nation’s Lakeside Trading store, would be allowed to continue those sales through a grandfather clause. The law will be reviewed by the county’s General Municipal Law committee April 15, and the village plans to pass it in May.
The village is moving fast on the law, Shattuck said, because it believes the Cayugas intend to open a marijuana dispensary at a property they’re purchasing, 121 Cayuga St., in the middle of Union Springs. Officials worry that would create overwhelming traffic in the village, similar to past lines at Lakeside Trading, as well as a negative influence on local youth.
Municipalities in the Cayuga County area are weighing the pros and cons of opting out of parts of New York state’s law legalizing marijuana.
„To move something like that into our community — we’re concerned because students walk by that block to get to school. It didn’t seem like a good thing,” Shattuck said. „But if they hadn’t bought that property in the village, if they decided to dispense out of (Lakeside Trading), then we probably wouldn’t have started this.”
Clint Halftown, the Cayugas’ federally recognized representative, confirmed to The Citizen that the nation is purchasing the property, which is currently the home of Gus’s Pizzeria. But he said there are no plans to open a dispensary there. The Cayugas are simply making the purchase, he continued, because they want to acquire any local commercial properties they can.
Still, Halftown asked why the village would opt out of allowing marijuana sales.
„I just don’t know why they’re opting out of something that could bring them more revenue,” he said. „If they don’t need it then good for them, but I do.”
Two Union Springs residents also cited potential revenue when they objected to the local law at a public hearing the village held last week, Shattuck said. Under the new state law, municipalities that don’t opt out of allowing marijuana sales will receive 75% of the local tax revenue they will generate when they begin April 1, 2022. The county will receive the remaining 25%.
But, as Shattuck explained at a meeting of the village planning board on Thursday, he doesn’t expect that would be the case in Union Springs.
„We know if the Cayuga Nation’s doing this, there is no tax revenue because the state’s only going to kick back what they receive, and the Cayuga Nation doesn’t pay taxes,” he said.
Shattuck said at the meeting that he was told the nation intends to open a dispensary in the village by Lee Alcott, the nation’s attorney at the firm Barclay Damon, though the mayor didn’t mention him by name. Asked to confirm that, Alcott sent The Citizen the following statement: „As with its right to conduct gaming in the village, the Nation will pursue any and all opportunities it deems appropriate.”
Alcott likewise did not respond to a question asking whether the Cayugas would challenge the village’s law. Shattuck said he believes they will, but he further believes it should be the state, not the municipality, that shoulders the burden of defending the law because it is a result of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.
Halftown also did not directly say whether the Cayugas would challenge the village law.
„They do what they feel is right for their people,” he said. „We’re a sovereign nation, so we have to do what we feel is right for our people.”
Shattuck does feel confident the village is doing what is right for its residents. Last week’s public hearing saw a total of 23 people speak, he said, and all but four supported the local law. The other two objectors cited their own use of marijuana. The mayor clarified that Union Springs is not against the drug outright, and residents will be welcome to possess their 3 ounces and grow their six plants.
„I grew up in the ’60s,” he said. „We don’t care.”
Cayuga County town to hold public hearing on marijuana opt-out
A third Cayuga County municipality has made known its plans to opt out of parts of the state’s new marijuana law, and will hold a public hearing on the matter next week.
The town of Springport will hold the hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, July 12, at its town hall at 859 Route 326. The subject of the hearing will be the town’s Local Law No. 1 for the Year 2021, which would prohibit retail dispensaries and consumption sites for marijuana within the town. The full text of the law is available at the office of the Springport town clerk during normal business hours.
New York state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, signed March 31 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, allows municipalities to opt out of those two parts of the law. They cannot opt out of most other parts of the law, which allows people to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana, grow up to six plants at home and use the substance in private and select public spaces.
Springport joins the town of Brutus and the village of Union Springs on the list of county municipalities moving forward to opt out of the two parts of the law. The deadline for doing so is Dec. 31.
Springport Town Supervisor Dave Schenck told The Citizen on Wednesday that the town board decided unanimously to opt out.
„We didn’t think it’s a positive thing to do for our communities,” he said of the state’s marijuana law. „We just think the unintended consequences could be additional unsafe communities.”
The board, Schenck continued, believes the state law decreases the power of law enforcement to police marijuana abuse and the legal consequences for it, which is „not a good combination” with the legalization of dispensaries and consumption sites. Additionally, Schenck said the town does not have many commercial areas where those businesses could open and generate tax revenue. There are several in the village of Union Springs inside the town, but Springport’s opt-out law would not apply to the village. Union Springs is moving forward with its own opt-out law.
With those factors in mind, the town board felt it was prudent to opt out and see how the state’s marijuana law affects other municipalities, Schenck said. The town can opt back in at any time.
But first, the board wants to know what the Springport public thinks.
„That’s basically why we’re having the hearing, to listen to everyone who wishes to weigh in,” Schenck said. „Then the board will decide.”
Cayuga County town reconsiders marijuana 'opt out’
A Cayuga County town may have changed its mind about „opting out” of parts of New York state’s marijuana law.
The town of Sennett has drafted a local law prohibiting marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites from opening there, Supervisor Tom Gray told The Citizen on Tuesday.
The town board will hold a public hearing on the law at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16. It has until Dec. 31 to pass the law. As a condition of the state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, municipalities cannot opt out after that deadline. However, municipalities that do pass local laws prohibiting marijuana businesses can opt back in by repealing their laws at any time.
Those conditions led the board to reconsider opting out, Gray said. Earlier this month, he told The Citizen the town wouldn’t, as the board believed marijuana would be sold down the commercial strip of Grant Avenue in the city of Auburn anyway. That belief was confirmed last week, when Auburn’s mayor and city councilors told The Citizen they are unanimously against opting out.
Gray said Sennett’s incoming supervisor, Tom Blair, asked the board to reconsider opting out so the town can study the issue more carefully.
„The key is if you don’t opt out, you never can. And if it’s a failure, then you’re in trouble,” Gray said.
Local laws opting out of marijuana retailers and consumption sites are subject to the state’s permissive referendum process, which gives residents who object to the law 45 days before it takes effect to petition for a public vote. At least 10% of the municipality’s residents who voted in the last governor’s election (2018) have to sign the petition.
Municipalities that don’t opt out will collect a 3% tax on marijuana sales. The county where the municipality is located will collect an additional 1% tax.
It is not yet known when marijuana retailers and consumption sites will be able to open in New York. When the state passed its law, licensing was expected to begin April 1, 2022, but delays in the appointment of officers to the Cannabis Control Board have likewise delayed the finalization of rules and regulations for those and other marijuana businesses.
Cayuga County mayor explains village’s marijuana 'opt out’
Following an Oct. 31 report on Cayuga County municipalities „opting out” of parts of New York state’s marijuana law, The Citizen has learned of more municipalities that have made their decisions.
The village of Port Byron and the town of Mentz have opted out, which is shorthand for passing local laws that prohibit marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites from operating there. Municipalities can’t opt out of any other parts of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act signed into law on March 31. It allows the limited use, possession and home growth of marijuana.
The fellow northern Cayuga County town of Victory, meanwhile, has decided not to opt out.
Victory Town Supervisor Michael Wiggins told The Citizen the town decided to allow businesses to attempt the state’s licensing process and present their plans to the town’s planning board for review. Dispensary and consumption site licensing was expected to begin April 1, 2022, but delays in the appointment of officers to the state’s Cannabis Control Board has likely pushed that date back.
Municipalities like Victory that choose not to opt out do not have to pass any laws, as the state law will permit the licensing of dispensaries and consumption sites there by default. In municipalities that do opt out, objecting residents have the 45 days until the law takes effect to petition for a permissive referendum that would put it up for a public vote at a special election.
The Mentz Town Board passed its local law at its Aug. 17 meeting. After a public hearing that yielded no comments, the board passed the law 5-0.
The village of Port Byron also received no public comments during the hearing it held at its board meeting Aug. 9. The board then passed its law 4-0.
Speaking to The Citizen on Wednesday, Port Byron Mayor Ron Wilson said the board decided not to allow dispensaries and consumption sites in the village for a few reasons.
Though the state law will direct 3% of sales at those businesses to the municipality where they take place, Wilson said he and the board were still skeptical the village would stand to gain much.
„The state’s going to let a small village make a lot of money on something they’re proposing? It ain’t going to happen that way, I don’t think,” Wilson said. „And we figured we weren’t going to make a lot of revenue because people are probably going to go to Auburn and buy it. Auburn’s probably going to allow it, I imagine. I don’t think they’re going to opt out.”
The city of Auburn has yet to make a decision about opting out. City council reviewed its options at an April meeting, but has not discussed the matter further.
Another reason Port Byron opted out, Wilson explained, was precautionary. Municipalities can’t opt out after the deadline of Dec. 31, but they can opt back in at any time. Before potentially giving the green light to marijuana businesses, though, the board wants to review the village’s zoning laws to ensure those businesses don’t open anywhere the board doesn’t approve.
„If we opt in,” Wilson said, „we want to have control over where it’s going to be located.”
Auburn City Council reviews marijuana options
Auburn City Council took its first public step toward deciding whether to opt out of parts of the state’s law legalizing recreational marijuana at its weekly meeting Thursday.
Though council didn’t make any decisions that night, instead hearing a presentation on the law, its members were immediately reminded of the subject’s immense public interest.
Before Corporation Counsel Stacy DeForrest’s presentation even began, two Auburn residents took the podium to share their thoughts on the law during the meeting’s public comment period.
The first, David Clifford, said that marijuana offers economic and environmental benefits. Its legalization will also lead to higher case clearance rates for police, he continued, and the expungement of possession charges that no longer exist today will help people who’ve had difficulty with employment. Clifford ended by encouraging councilors to contact him to discuss the matter further.
The second commenter, JoLynn Mulholland, is project coordinator for the Cayuga County Drug-Free Community Coalition. She shared concerns about the law affecting the area’s youth, saying the coalition’s data shows a youth marijuana rate above the national average. People driving under its influence and children accessing plants grown by their parents are other concerns, she added.
Municipalities in the Cayuga County area are weighing the pros and cons of opting out of parts of New York state’s law legalizing marijuana.
To clear the air, City Clerk Chuck Mason then noted that contrary to rumors on social media, council would not be casting any votes about marijuana that night.
Later in the meeting, DeForrest began her presentation about the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act signed into law March 31 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
As DeForrest explained, the parts of the law that legalize possession and use of marijuana took effect immediately, and municipalities cannot opt out of them. The city of Auburn can, however, opt out of permitting retail sales at dispensaries and licensing on-site usage of the substance. The city can do so, she continued, by passing a law prohibiting those activities or placing time, place and manner restrictions on them. Any restrictions must comply with zoning regulations and cannot be „unreasonably impracticable” with respect to other permitted businesses and effects on traffic and noise.
New York gives municipalities until Dec. 31 to opt out, DeForrest said. They can’t opt out after then, but they can opt back in at any time. If a municipality opts out, residents have 45 days to petition for a referendum that would allow the public to vote on the matter. In order to meet the filing deadlines for that vote to take place in November, council would have to adopt a law opting out by June 24.
Much of DeForrest’s presentation, and the questions she would field from council members afterward, concerned limitations on the use and potential sale of marijuana locally.
Preempting a possible attempt by the Cayuga Nation to open a marijuana dispensary, the village of Union Springs has drafted a local law prohib…
Though the state’s law allows public use, the substance can’t be smoked anywhere in Auburn that tobacco can’t be smoked. The law additionally prohibits marijuana use in tobacco businesses and conventions, outdoor dining areas and automobiles. As for sales, the state’s new Cannabis Control Board and Office of Cannabis Management will license dispensaries like the Liquor Authority does alcohol vendors. There will be rules limiting the number of marijuana retailers in any given area, both DeForrest and Councilor Debby McCormick said, and the city will be privy to license applications.
„There are so many parallels between the way alcohol is regulated and the way this is set up,” DeForrest said.
The city’s corporation counsel also broke down the revenue Auburn stands to collect from marijuana sales when they’re permitted beginning April 1, 2022. Of a total excise tax of 13%, 9% would go to the state, 3% to the municipality and 1% to the county. Sales will be subject to sales tax as well, DeForrest said, and the law allows municipalities to spend the revenue any way they wish.
Councilor Terry Cuddy said that revenue could be particularly helpful in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made balancing the city’s next budget a challenge. Cuddy then noted the social and economic justice dimensions of the law, and DeForrest confirmed that the state plans to grant about 50% of its marijuana licenses to women, minorities and other disadvantaged individuals.
Two smoke shops have opened in Auburn this month, and the owners of both hope they can add marijuana to their businesses now that the drug has…
Conversely, Councilor Tim Locastro asked DeForrest what expenses the law could create for the city of Auburn. DeForrest said she doesn’t foresee any specific ones, and deferred to City Manager Jeff Dygert. He said that aside from some zoning reviews and other legal discussions, most of the law’s regulation will fall to the state. But he did detail one change he anticipates for Auburn police.
„As this becomes more commonplace, there will be people that are offended by it, or troubled by it, and will call expecting maybe a particular course of action to be taken against people who are legally utilizing marijuana,” Dygert said. „So I think the police department’s probably going to have a large public education burden on them.”
Councilor Jimmy Giannettino said that for him, the main takeaway of the night’s meeting was a sharper understanding of what Auburn stands to gain or lose by opting out.
„If we opt out, we can’t prohibit the smoking of it in the city of Auburn,” he said. „So if we were to opt out and Sennett, Aurelius, Fleming, Owasco don’t opt out, what’s going to happen is people are going to drive to those towns, they’re going to buy it and they’re going to come into Auburn.”