Rotterdam Planning Commission signs off on marijuana regulations

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ROTTERDAM — The Planning Commission on Tuesday issued a positive recommendation on a proposed law that would regulate marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities within town, but questions remain on what the future of cannabis sales will look like moving forward as officials wait for state regulations to be released. 

Commissioners, in a 6-1 vote, agreed to issue the recommendation on the proposed ordinance that would limit where cannabis-related businesses can set up shop and establishes hours of operations for dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities, citing the need to have some type of regulatory framework in place before a proprietor seeking to open one of the facilities brings plans before the commission for review.

“This is a living document, so as the state’s rules and regulations come through, we’ll be able to adapt our document to that,” said Planning Commission Chairman Thomas Yullie.

Commissioner Joseph Signore was the lone dissenting vote.

The proposed ordinance would permit dispensaries to operate only in the general, light- and heavy-industrial zoning districts with a special-use permit and Planning Commission approval. On-site consumption facilities, meanwhile, would only be permitted in light- and heavy-industrial zones.

The businesses would also be required to prove they have adequate parking and pedestrian access, and must submit plans that show how any odors would be contained on site. The special permit would only be valid as long as the state license to operate the facility is in place.

In addition, the proposal would permit cannabis-related businesses to operate 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and on Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m.

But it remains unclear what a final ordinance might look like.

The Town Board must still approve the proposal and has the ability to tweak the language before final passage. A public hearing on the proposed law is set for Dec. 14.

State lawmakers last year moved to legalize marijuana use for adults 21 and over under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which established the framework for the future of marijuana sales in New York moving forward — which some estimate could become a billion dollar industry in the coming years.

The law allowed local municipalities the ability to opt out of allowing dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities from operating within their borders by passing a local law prior to Dec. 31, 2021. Local governments that opted out would be excluded from collecting any sales tax generated under the law, but have the ability to opt back in at a later date.

But government’s that opted in have no ability to opt out later, according to the law, which allows municipalities to establish where the facilities can operate, hours of operation and other zoning restrictions that are considered reasonable.

The previous Town Board decided to allow for both dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities to operate in town, citing a potential for new tax revenue. Under the state law, marijuana sales would include a 4% local tax, with 25% going to the county, the remaining 75% going to cities, towns and villages based on a proportion of sales.

But the move was criticized by some residents, who expressed concerns about the lack of state regulations on the facilities at the time.

On Tuesday, several planning commission members raised questions about how dispensaries would be regulated by the state, including how many would ultimately be permitted to open in town and how the state would ultimately regulate the facilities — questions that will be answered once final regulations are released.

Commissioners ultimately agreed to give a positive recommendation for the proposed ordinance with the understanding the a final law could be updated at a later date.

“By not taking any action at all, the town backed into this and left the hot potato for the next board that was taking office, and now we’re set to do whatever we have to do,” Yullie said. “We really don’t have a choice, so at least we get something on the books and get ahead of it.”

The state is preparing to issue the first dispensary licenses as part of the Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary program, which sets aside 150 licenses to “justice-involved” individuals, or those impacted by the war on drugs. The application window for the licenses closed in September and sales are poised to begin by the end of the year.

But regulations for the nine general-use cannabis licenses, which cover everything from cultivation to retail sales, have yet to be released.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold. 


Categories: News, News, Rotterdam, Schenectady County

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