With one month to go, outlook on pot shops is hazy in the Hilltowns

— Photo by Skalle-Per Hedenhös
A cannabis plant.

HILLTOWNS — What might have been a fiery issue in the development-wary but revenue-desperate Hilltowns — namely, whether to allow marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities to operate in each town — has instead been left to smolder down to the roach. 

Municipalities in New York State have until Dec. 31 to opt out of the provision in New York State’s marijuana legalization law that allows licensed retailers to sell pot products throughout the state, but, so far, only Rensselaerville and Westerlo have proposed such laws. 

Knox and Berne have yet to publicize drafts, and although there’s still a month left, government transparency regulations mean those towns will have to process the matter very efficiently to meet the adoption deadline should they choose to opt-out. 

Knox Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis told The Enterprise this week that the issue will be on the town’s December agenda, and that his “personal feelings” are that he’s “not against” allowing pot facilities to operate in the town. 

Likewise, Berne Supervisor Sean Lyons told The Enterprise that the Berne Town Board will discuss the topic at its December meeting, and that his “recommendation to our Board would be to take no action at this time.”

“If we do nothing, we opt in for the time being,” Lyons wrote in an email. “After the NY cannabis board meets more and develops more of the NY structure. They will give more time to opt out in 2022. 

“As I understand small things like the vape pens the Stewart's etc sell now will be regulated,” he continued. “If we opt out now all businesses in our area would need to stop selling these products. Even Dollar General. We don't need to be limiting sales and reducing revenues.

“Also as I am understanding in 2022 the Town can define more of what they want to opt into,” Lyons said. “There are several categories, one example is limiting growing/selling by a business in a field or establishment by a school.”

When asked to confirm Lyons’s understanding, Office of Cannabis Management Spokesman Freeman Klopott said, of the deadline, “The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act sets the opt-out deadline for December 31, 2021, or nine months after the effective date of the legislation. Towns that opt-out can always opt back in after the deadline.” 

Of the vape-product regulations, Klopott said, “The MRTA mentions nicotine only in relation to integrating it with cannabis products. Specifically, it says: ‘The use or integration of alcoholic beverages or nicotine in cannabis products is strictly prohibited.’”

Knox and Berne regularly schedule their meetings for the second week of each month. Berne also occasionally holds a workshop meeting on the fourth Tuesday as needed, which it can do without filing a special public notice. This month, the town is holding a special meeting on Dec. 1, after The Enterprise prints this week’s edition. No agenda had been posted before this article’s publication.

Should either town decide that it wants to opt out, it will need to propose a law stating as much and hold a public hearing before it can move to adopt that law. Public hearings must be advertised per New York State’s Municipal Home Rule Law.

“Such a public hearing,” the law states, “... shall be on such public notice of at least three days as has been or hereafter may be prescribed by a local law on which a hearing shall have been held as prescribed by this section upon five days’ notice or, in the event such a local law prescribing the length of notice is not adopted, upon five days’ notice.”

The opt-out laws will all be subject to a permissive referendum, meaning residents will have 45 days to gather and petition against the adoption of the law in an attempt to repeal it. However, according to Klopott, this process need not play out in full before the Dec. 31 deadline.

Westerlo, which is proposing to block both dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities, is expected to hold its first public hearing on its opt-out law on Dec. 7. Rensselaerville, which also proposed to block both types of facility, held a public hearing on Nov. 10, where no resident appeared to weigh in.


More Hilltowns News

  • The Berne Town Board held a public hearing on a new animal-control law this week and received mostly minor suggestions for alteration from a public that seemed largely pleased with the proposed regulations. 

  • The Albany Water Board, steward of the Basic Creek dam in Westerlo, has received $100,000 from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to come up with a design for a rehabilitation project for the high-hazard dam, which is in substandard condition.

  • A digital equity map, put together by a coalition of organizations including the New York State Education Department and the New York State Library, shows that approximately 15 percent of Hilltown households don’t have internet access, whether because they don’t have an internet subscription or because they don’t have internet-capable devices.

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