A problem previously addressed by Massena officials is now confounding their colleagues in Potsdam.
Authorities in Massena said they wanted to hear from representatives of state government about what can be done concerning an unlicensed shop selling cannabis in the village. Potsdam now has its own issue with an unlicensed business providing cannabis products, and no one knows how to proceed.
Several residents attending a Potsdam Town Board meeting April 11 expressed misgivings about a business called Ash Exotics at Maple and Market streets in the village of Potsdam. They said it does not have a license to sell cannabis but is doing so anyway.
Members of the Town Board held a public hearing that evening to discuss the proposed cannabis dispensary law they needed to pass to comply with New York’s Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act, passed two years ago to allow recreational marijuana to be used and sold. Communities opting to permit dispensaries within their borders must pass a local law outlining the rules for cannabis dispensaries.
The Town Board passed its law that evening. It covers everywhere in the town with the exceptions of the villages of Norwood and Potsdam.
Two of the people at the meeting were Jessica T. Furnace and her father, Lyle N. Furnace. They own and operate a smoke shop in the village called Happy Daze at Main and Market streets.
They are obviously displeased with the presence of Ash Exotic, and understandably so. The unlicensed business may hurt their sales despite not operating legally. Jessica Furnace said it appears that Ash Exotics is targeting underage individuals with some of its items.
“Holding up a brightly colored package with a cartoon character on it that she says came from the unlicensed store, Ms. Furnace said she’s concerned the packaging could be aimed at marketing to underage people. She claimed to have seen what appeared to be underage customers coming out of the store holding similar packages. She added she’s spoken to state and local police, who ‘told me they had no answers,’ she said,” according to a story published April 13 by the Watertown Daily Times. “During the Town Board’s public hearing, Kinsey S. LaPointe, who is licensed to open a cannabis shop via the state’s social justice program, felt it’s unfair that illegal pot shops are running as she goes through the legal process to open a licensed operation downtown. … Mrs. LaPointe said she is eyeing two potential locations for her shop: downtown in the area near Sergi’s or in the SeaComm Plaza. She said she hopes to open by the summer, depending on when she gets her operating permit from the village. Village lawmakers have opted into the state dispensary program, but they haven’t passed a law similar to the town’s, which is a state requirement before they can issue operating permits to cannabis businesses.”
Authorities seem stumped about how to address dispensaries operating without a license. A story by the Buffalo News, published March 23 by the Watertown Daily Times, reported that state legislators are considering legislation to enable officials to shut down illegal dispensaries.
It’s good that the state is working on drafting such a law. But we’re not certain why this bill wasn’t part of the state’s initial measure allowing recreational marijuana passed in 2021.
State officials need to develop guidelines for municipal representatives confronting this problem. New York’s law for allowing dispensaries will work only if everyone is compelled to follow the rules, something that’s now sadly lacking.
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