Feedback sought on marijuana retailers

Tribune News Service

CANTON — The village at the heart of the St. Lawrence County seat wants to hear from its constituents about recreational marijuana dispensaries under the state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.

The village Board of Trustees during its Wednesday meeting scheduled a public forum to gauge Canton’s interest in permitting local marijuana retailers.

“I don’t really want to talk about opting out — or anything — until we’ve heard from the community,” Trustee Carol S. Pynchon said.

The public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, at the municipal building, 60 Main St. A virtual participation option is also planned. Trustees cited probable August vacation plans among community members in their decision to push the hearing to September.

Should the village decide to opt out, village residents could petition for a referendum or the village could hold a referendum of its own volition. Otherwise, dispensaries would be allowed to open once the MRTA’s regulatory mechanisms are further developed.

Canton’s approach follows that of Massena village officials, who this week requested community input. Watertown City Council on Monday night voted to opt out, and some city residents are vowing to continue to push for a referendum.

Signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in March, the MRTA legalized recreational marijuana sales and use for adults 21 and older. It immediately expunged previous marijuana-related convictions from New Yorkers’ records and established a framework for regulating businesses.

The law created the Office of Cannabis Management, which is governed by a Cannabis Control Board similar to the state Liquor Authority under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. The OCM will be responsible for issuing retail licenses and developing additional business regulations.

Cities, towns and villages across the state can decide to opt out of allowing dispensaries by passing a local law by Dec. 31, though municipalities would then forego tax revenue generated from shops within their boundaries.

A total 13% cannabis excise tax will apply when dispensary sales begin, likely next year. The tax breaks down into 1% for the county, 3% for the dispensary’s municipality and 9% for the state.

The 9% state portion will subsidize the OCM and help cover costs for state agencies to apply the law and adapt to legalization. After administrative costs are covered, the state’s remaining revenue from its 9% share will be split among three state funds: 40% for the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, 40% for general education through the Lottery Fund and 20% for the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund.

If Canton decides to opt out after the September public forum, village attorney Gerald J. Ducharme said trustees should still have enough time in the fall to draft the associated local law, host a required public hearing and take a vote before the December deadline.

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