SCOTIA – Cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities will help the Scotia tax base, will destigmatize the use of marijuana and help other small businesses in the village, residents stated Wednesday during a forum on the topic.
Under the new state cannabis law, Scotia has the option to opt out of having retail dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities. However, if Scotia wants to opt out it must enact a local law stating so before the end of the year. That law would then be required to go to a permissive referendum, said Wade Beltramo, general counsel for the New York State Conference of Mayors.
During a forum that lasted about an hour and half, all but one resident was for allowing retail sales in the village.
Steve Sweeney said he’s not against the legalization of cannabis, but felt the village would be in over its head with retail facilities. Sweeney said he lived in Colorado for 12 years, even trying his hand at operating a medical marijuana establishment. He said he has first hand experience seeing what cannabis retail sites can do to a community. Although he didn’t specify what Colorado town he lived in, he said there was an increase in crime and the municipality eventually changed its rules so that no more retail sites could open.
Residents and other attendees urged board members to educate themselves before making any decisions.
“When we look at states that have legalized across the United States – states that have legalized cannabis – we see a reduction in overdose fatalities from opioids and other drugs,” said Alexis Pleus, the founder of Truth Pharm. “There’s no known overdose death from cannabis use itself.”
The organization says it advocates for policy changes regarding substance use and raises awareness surrounding facts on substance use in order to try to destigmatize it.
Some residents spoke about the revenue the facilities could generate for the village at a time where taxes have continued to increase due to lack of economic development.
“I don’t think the village is in any position to be turning down any potential sources of revenue at this point at all no matter how small it is,” said Keith M. Brown.
He also said that regulation of the substance leads to a safer product on the market.
“We had a vaping crisis not that long ago,” he said, noting the issue was tied to people buying from the black market. “Which would not occur if there’s a place people can buy it that’s regulated, tested, taxed and monitored for safety.”
The demand to buy marijuana is there too, said Don Andrews, owner of Vape City Smoke Shop on Mohawk Avenue. He also has businesses in Schenectady and Glenville with Upstate CBD.
“We see the demand at all three locations for recreational dispensaries when we speak to our customers,” he said. “We constantly hear they are traveling to Massachusetts and other state locations to purchase their recreational cannabis and we see that the revenue can be kept right here locally.”
Some residents spoke about what they say are the medical benefits cannabis has to offer, including alleviating anxiety, helping with sleep and even helping people get back their appetite.
“As a cancer survivor who could not bring myself to go to a corner and trust whoever was going to hand me a baggie for $20 this is going to help a lot of people,” said Lynn Toudell.
Mayor Tom Gifford is conducting a straw poll with residents who attended the forum to get an idea of how village residents feel about the topic. He said that conversations continued for another 45 minutes on the sidewalk outside of Village Hall after the forum had formally ended. He said so far he has 12 people in favor of having the retail and consumption sites and one person against it.
The town of Glenville held a forum on the same topic on April 28 and then conducted a community survey. Supervisor Chris Koetzle said the town will continue discussion on what it will do in either July or August before making a decision. Koetzle attended the village’s forum.
The town of Amsterdam has sent out a survey to its residents to determine if it should opt out of retail sales after the town discovered it could not have a referendum to decide the matter. A permissive referendum only takes place if the town enacts a law opting out of retail sales.