Clifton Park

Clifton Park opts out of pot dispensaries, lounges 2 weeks before deadline

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CLIFTON PARK – The Town Board opted out of marijuana dispensaries and lounges this week after Supervisor Philip Barrett suggested the expense of state-approved businesses could eventually reduce them to showrooms for street dealers.

Clifton Park joined more than 400 towns and villages across New York that have opted to block local marijuana dispensaries and consumption lounges as the statewide deadline of Dec. 31 nears, with many officials deciding to stay out of the upcoming market until regulators provide more clarity.

The unanimous Town Board vote, taken Monday, was seven days after a public hearing during which arguments on both sides of the topic were aired.

In light of the state’s ongoing development of regulations for the industry, Town Board member Anthony Morelli said he didn’t want Clifton Park to be part of New York’s “learning curve and bumps in the road” as it establishes ground rules. 

“There might be a time in the future where after the detailed regulations are implemented, and this has been implemented elsewhere, then we’d reconsider, possibly,” Morelli said. “But at this point, I just think there’s too many ambiguities in the framework for me to vote to allow Clifton Park to have onsite sales or distribution.”

Barrett said he didn’t believe state-authorized dispensaries or lounges would remove marijuana transactions from the street.

A would-be buyer would resolve to look elsewhere, Barrett said, considering the overhead a business would have to pay for licensing, storefronts, security, insurance, and taxation on pot.

New Yorkers can possess and grow small amounts of marijuana as of March. 

Barrett likened marijuana dispensaries to brick and mortar retail stores being “showrooms” for online giant Amazon. 

“I think dispensaries might end up being a showroom for people to buy marijuana from people on the street,” he said.

On Dec. 6, citizens made cases for opting in and out, including an Albany resident who asked Clifton Park officials to legalize pot after she said her family members were killed in a drug deal gone wrong.

Sylvia Phillips said she’s witnessed Clifton Park’s growth since moving here in 1977 in the middle of farmland off I-87.

“I see great futures for our community here, especially our teenagers and young people I am totally in favor of opting out for recreational cafes, restaurants, and dispensaries,” she said. “I can’t see where it would benefit our community at all 

Phillips described herself as a dear friend of the late Father Peter Young, an icon for rehab for the homeless and addicted who worked with late Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, a former U.S. vice president, to decriminalize alcoholism. Young helped establish more than 3,000 shelters and addiction facilities in New York. Phillips said Young described pot as a gateway drug.

But Daniel Kreplin, an Air Force veteran, said the U.S. had created a stigma that villainized pot since the War on Drugs some 50 years ago. Kreplin said the stigma and villainization had only served to incarcerate Black Americans. 

Dave Dittmer said he didn’t want Clifton Park, an affluent suburb with good employment, to be an early adopter of marijuana.

But Riley Lanarin of Albany said her uncle was a marijuana dealer. He, along with his girlfriend and Lanolin’s 3- and 4-year-old cousins, was gunned down during a financial dispute over drugs, 10 years ago, she said.

The law that legalized recreational marijuana in New York this year gives municipalities until Dec. 31 to “opt-out” of hosting dispensaries or on-site consumption lounges once retail sales start in a year or so. 

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act that was signed into law by then Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March legalized personal possession of up to three ounces of cannabis flower for people 21 and older, and offers municipalities across the state the opportunity to opt-out of licensing both cannabis lounges and pot shops where customers can make grab-and-go purchases. 

The law establishes a 13% tax on adult-use marijuana sales, with 9% going to the state and the remaining 4% split between municipalities and their counties.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

Categories: News, Saratoga County

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