McCarthy ‘disappointed’ in how Schenectady City Council decided to opt-out of marijuana sales

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy

SCHENECTADY — Mayor Gary McCarthy on Tuesday said he was “disappointed” in how the City Council handled its last-minute decision to opt-out of allowing marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities from opening within the city.

Under the state’s Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act, 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 from opening within their borders.

Municipalities that opt out have the option to opt back in at a later date. But those that opt-in cannot back out at a later date. Municipalities that don’t act automatically opt into the law.

Local governments were given months to weigh the decision, but council members waited until Monday to discuss the subject in the hopes additional state guidelines would be released. The council chose to opt out in order to solicit public input and weigh other aspects of the law during a meeting of the Government Operations Committee.

“This is not an issue that has just come up recently,” McCarthy said. “This has been something that’s been out there for a very long period of time and I’m disappointed in the way the council is looking to deal with it at the very last minute.”

In order to opt-out, the council must pass a local law, which requires a public hearing that will take place later this month.

McCarthy said he was blindsided by the council’s decision and believed they would not take action to opt out of the state law, a path he would have liked to see the city continue on.

“I was encouraging them to continue the path,” he said. “None of them had indicated to me before that they were not going to let the state law take effect where the facilities would be allowed in the city of Schenectady.”

Under the law, cannabis can still be consumed by adults 21 and over regardless of a municipality’s decision to opt-out of allowing the facilities from opening.

At stake is a portion of the estimated $350 million in statewide sales tax revenue cannabis sales are expected to generate. Cannabis carries a 13% tax, with 9% going directly to the state.

The remaining 4% would be divided between counties and the local municipalities based on sales.

Council members agreed to take the subject up again in 90 days.

McCarthy did not have any information on when the public will be allowed to weigh in on the subject.

“That’s up to the purview of the council,” he said.

Schenectady joins a growing list of communities to opt-out of allowing dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities from opening within its borders. Nearby Glenville and Niskayuna have already opted out.

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

Categories: News, Schenectady County

VINCE RIGGI December 8, 2021
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I must finish my disjointed comment to read……next time there is a very important city issue be up front with your legislative body, instead of hoping it will get by them. There was a very difficult election in November and many members apparently had too much on their plates. Corp Counsel should have been advising them of the deadline importance

VINCE RIGGI December 8, 2021
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My question to the mayor is simply, why didn’t you brief the council on this months ago and at very least poll each member to get their feelings on opting out, since he has done that in the past during committee meetings. My guess is since nothing was said the mayor felt like silence is golden since he was in favor of being in from the beginning. Naturally he’s disappointed since his silence ploy almost worked. My advice to the mayor is next time te is a ver

DAVID GIACALONE December 8, 2021
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Disappointed? Well, I’m disappointed (but certainly not surprised) that Mayor McCarthy does not think that having cannabis dispensaries or lounges is an important enough issue to bring to the public or even discuss with Council members.

His attempt to just run out the clock and passively opt-in got foiled when Council members realized there is no downside to opting-out now, because the City can always opt in later, and that some resident do care. And, Council members realized there is plenty of downside to being automatically opted-in without seeing the final regulations, or considering the impact on neighborhoods and traffic safety.

The Mayor told the Gazette in early November that the city is not planning on passing any resolutions opting out of the law. I’m pleased to see that City Council is not going to let Mr. McCarthy make important decisions out of their sight an out of sight of the public.

I’m still waiting to hear from the Mayor just what the downside is to opting out now, or to both informing the public of the issues and getting feedback from the resident of Schenectady. I bet I will be disappointed if I actually expect a thoughtful answer from the Mayor.