ROTTERDAM — With the state preparing to issue the first marijuana dispensary licenses by year’s end, local officials last week introduced legislation to regulate where cannabis-related businesses can operate within town.
Town Board members unanimously approved a resolution setting a Dec.14 public hearing on a proposed law that would regulate where proprietors of marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities can set up shop and establishes hours of operations for the businesses.
Under the proposal, retail dispensaries would be permitted in the town’s B-2 General Business, I-1 Light Industrial and I-2 Heavy Industrial zoning districts with a special use permit and approval by the Planning Commission. On-site consumption facilities would be permitted only in the I-1 and I-2 zones with the proper permit and necessary approvals.
In addition, the law would only allow the facilities to operate from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 12 to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
It’s unclear when the Town Board would approve a final ordinance. The town’s Planning Commission is expected to review the proposal on Tuesday.
The proposed legislation comes more than a year and a half after state lawmakers legalized cannabis use for adults 21 and over under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act last March. The law created a new state Office of Cannabis Management, governed by a Cannabis Control Board tasked with regulating what is projected to be a billion dollar industry in the coming years.
The law gave local municipalities the option to opt-out of allowing dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities from operating within their borders — a move hundreds of municipalities across the state took prior to the state’s Dec. 31, 2021 deadline, according to a report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany.
Under the law, local governments that opted out would also miss out on millions in projected sales tax revenue from marijuana sales across the state. Municipalities that opted out have the ability to opt back in later, but those that opted in have no recourse to back out, according to the law. Local governments also cannot prohibit individuals 21 and over from consuming marijuana, but can introduce reasonable zoning regulations that establish where the dispensary and on-site consumption facilities can operate.
In December, the previous Town Board announced Rotterdam would allow both dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities to operate within the town, citing the importance of a new tax revenue — a move that was criticized by some residents who raised concerns about the lack of state regulations for cannabis at the time.
“We believe that dispensaries provide a valuable revenue stream that will directly benefit the wider community and fund necessary services,” the lawmakers said in a statement at the time. “If prohibited, residents will simply turn to neighboring towns and take tax dollars out of Rotterdam.”
But state regulators are inching closer to issuing the first dispensary licenses, and the state is expected to issue the first Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary licenses by the end of the year. A total of 150 such licenses are expected to be awarded to individuals impacted by the war on drugs after regulations for the limited licenses were handed down earlier this year.
Regulations for the state’s nine general license categories, including on-site consumption facilities, have yet to be released.
In Schenectady, lawmakers reversed course at the last minute to allow both dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities to open, but lawmakers have yet to hold a conversation on potential regulations, citing a lack of state guidelines.
Meanwhile, the Rotterdam Planning Commission will meet Tuesday to review the proposed ordinance. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 1100 Sunrise Blvd.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.