Schenectady

Schenectady City Council to discuss future of marijuana sales

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SCHENECTADY — The City Council on Monday is set to discuss potentially keeping marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities out of the Electric City.

Under the state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which was approved by state lawmakers earlier this year, local municipalities have until Dec. 31 to pass a local law opting out of allowing dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities to open within their borders.

The council will take up the discussion during a meeting of the Government Operation Committee. 

Municipalities that do opt-out have the option of opting back in at a later date. But those that opt-in cannot choose to opt-out in the future.

Regardless of a final decision, adults 21 and older will be allowed to consume cannabis wherever cigarettes can be consumed except while driving. The law permits adults 21 and over to possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis flower. 

At stake is the estimated $350 million in sales tax revenue cannabis sales are expected to generate in New York state. Local governments that opt-out of allowing dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities will not receive any tax revenue associated with sales.

Under the law, marijuana sales would carry a 13% tax, with a 9% going directly to the state. The remaining 4% would be divided between the county and local governments, with 25% going directly to the county and 75% being split between local governments based on the proportionality of sales. 

The council has had little discussion about potentially opting out of allowing the facilities to open up until this point, though Mayor Gary McCarthy said earlier this year there were no plans to do so. 

A growing number of local governments have opted out of the law, citing concerns about future regulations, which are not expected to be released until sometime next year.

Glenville and Niskayuna have all opted out in Schenectady County, and Clifton Park may join a growing number of municipalities in Saratoga County that opted out, including the town of Ballston and city of Mechanicville. 

Local governments that don’t act are automatically opted in under the law.  

Seating discussion

The council is also planning to hold a discussion on seating the two vacant council seats that have been left empty for about a year following the resignations of Ed Kosiur and Leesa Perazzo.

Voters elected Democrats Carl Williams and Doreen Ditoro to fill the unexpired terms during November’s election, but the seats have remained empty pending the certification of the election, which took place late last month.

Ditoro received 3,075 votes while Williams garnered 2,735, or 23% and 20% of the total vote, respectively. 

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold. 

Categories: News, Schenectady County

2 Comments

DAVID GIACALONE

Having waited so long to start a discussion of this important decision, the most responsible action by the Council would be to pass an opt-out Resolution before Dec. 31, rather than force the public and Council to deal with the issues the weeks before and after Christmas.

There is no down side to opting out now. Indeed, over 400 municipalities across the state have already opted out. No retail sites are expected to be licensed until 2023, so there is no rush to cash in on tax revenue from sales, if residents and the Council want to opt-back-in.

The City can use 2022 to further explore the issues. For example, both coming to and leaving the City to purchase and consume marijuana, drivers are quite likely to be buzzed ormore. With no effective tools available to measure whether a driver is unlawfully under the influence of marijuana, we should be very wary of being a magnet for purchasers driving in from towns that have opted out.

The Rockefeller Insitute has compiled a Marijuana Opt-Out Tracker that can be used to find out how every municipality has dealt with this issue. See https://tinyurl.com/OptOutTracker

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