Current News Topic
Published Aug. 2021/Updated Jan. 2022
NYS Marijuana Law and the Village
UPDATE January 2022: Since this article was originally published, the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees held two public hearings on October 25, 2021 and November 8, 2021. At the conclusion of the hearings the board adopted Chapter 143 to the Code of the Village of Mamaroneck to prohibit both on-site cannabis consumption establishments and cannabis retail dispensaries within the Village of Mamaroneck. Follow this link to the proposed law voted on at the meeting.
Mayor Murphy and Trustee Wenstrup each stated they would have preferred to allow retail dispensaries and ban consumption establishments. Trustees Natchez, Tafur, Wenstrup and Lucas voted in favor of the ban. Mayor Murphy voted no and the law was adopted 4:1.
Here is the link to the recording of the November 8, 2021 Board of Trustees meeting on LMC Media's website.
New York state passed the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) on March 31, 2021. Personal consumption and cultivation of cannabis products are now legal for all individuals 21 years of age or older throughout New York, including within the Village of Mamaroneck.
The new NYS marijuana law also calls for the establishment of a management office and a control board to issue licenses for cultivating, growing, distributing, selling and on-site consumption of cannabis products for adult use. Out of these licenses, municipalities have the right to prohibit two: retail and on-site consumption, but they must act before the end of this year.
Retail Sales and Consumption Lounges in the Village
The Village has until the end of the year to notify the state if it wants to prevent – at least for the time being - marijuana consumption lounges and/or retail dispensaries opening in the Village. (This decision has NO impact on residents’ legal right to consume, possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use.) If it doesn't enact a local law this year, the Village will automatically stay 'opted in' and licensed dispensaries and lounges will be permitted to open.
If the Village Board of Trustees should choose to ‘opt out’ on marijuana retail and consumption licenses for now, the ability to reverse course and decide to permit marijuana consumption lounges and dispensaries in the future remains open. But if the Village doesn't adopt a local law this year, starting January 1, 2022, its ability to prohibit retail stores and on-site consumption locations closes forever.
By opting out now, the Village preserves the right to decide to opt back in at a later date.
Impact of ‘Opting Out’
By ‘opting out' now, the Village would have additional time to assess residents’ concerns and enact zoning requirements for new cannabis-product businesses.
Opting out would give the Village more time to enact ordinances regarding these businesses. For example, the new state law prohibits marijuana retail dispensaries and consumption lounges from operating within 500-feet of public schoolgrounds and 200-feet of houses of worship. But it doesn’t restrict proximity to private schools, nursery schools, day care centers, youth organizations, parks or playgrounds - the Trustees could address this issue through new zoning legislation.
In addition, the new state law requires that a retail dispensary be located on a public street in a store used for business, trade or industry. The Trustees could enact legislation that goes further to define specifically in which areas a dispensary may operate, as well as set parking requirements, hours of operations, lighting, fencing and other zoning conditions.
Other concerns include assessing what it means to have an 'all-cash' business in the Village - is additional security required? Also, marijuana dispensaries are well known for their extremely pungent smell - what zoning requirements should be enacted to ensure that the aroma of these businesses do not negatively impact other commercial or private establishments?
Enacting new zoning laws takes time and requires public input. Cannabis businesses that open before the Village has enacted new zoning restrictions would likely be considered “grandfathered” pre-existing uses before the new zoning changes and thus exempt from following those requirements.
Although the state licensing agencies will consider the number of licenses operating in a given location, at this point the state has not set a limit on the number of licenses it will approve in any given area.
Benefits of the New Law and ‘Opting In’
One of the objectives of the new law is to generate new revenue through use and sales taxes for the state, county and local governments. Local municipalities will receive 3% of the total sales collected from retail dispensaries and consumption lounges operating within it. (It is unclear for operations located in both a village and a town that are opted into the program, how that 3% would be split between the two municipalities.)
Local retail marijuana dispensaries would mean new business and jobs within the Village, and would provide convenient access to cannabis products to residents.
An overarching goal of the new law is to promote diversity in commerce and opportunities for communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibitions in the past. 50% of licenses are to be awarded to minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, distressed farmers, and service-disabled veterans.
Below are links to articles with more information about the purposes of the new law and the controls around licensing cannabis businesses, plus links to the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees meeting on Aug.9, 2021 when the law was discussed by the Village Police Department and the Trustees.
Land Use and Planning Considerations for the New York State Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act - Nelson Pope Voorhis - May 21
New York’s Municipal Opt Out – Castetter Cannabis Group – June 2021
Hudson Valley Towns that Opted In or Out on Marijuana – Times Union – June 2021
Some Communities Opt Out of Marijuana Dispensaries, Citing Lack of State Guidance – Spectrum Local News – July 2021
Correction - an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated 3% of sales tax rather than 3% of total sales would be distributed to local municipalities.
The Mamaroneck Project Point of View
The Mamaroneck Project is concerned that many Village residents are unaware of the short time left for the Village to exercise its right to opt-out on marijuana lounges and/or dispensaries and preserve the right to opt-in in the future. Many NYS municipalities began discussing this issue months ago. Village residents should have an opportunity to express their views to the Board.
Taking a broad look at this legislation, we find many positive outcomes - help in preventing disparate policing policies that victimized minority communities for decades; the expunging of criminal records of people who were convicted of marijuana-related offenses that are no longer illegal; the fact that 50% of cannabis business licenses will be reserved for “social equity applicants”. It will produce new tax revenue for the state, and its counties and municipalities. And we appreciate that the state has given individual municipalities the choice to decide on licensed retail stores and consumption lounges.
However, Village residents need information about what it means to have a marijuana dispensary and/or consumption lounge within our borders.
Any new permitted use in the Village should be thoroughly researched to understand what zoning enactments are required - not only in regards to retail stores, but also the distributorships and cooperatives that may open in our Village. Also, the Village Code should be amended to prohibit smoking of marijuana products in our parks as it does already for tobacco products.
The sensible thing for the Trustees to do is pass a local law to opt out of dispensaries and consumption lounges for the time being, and immediately get to work to enact zoning regulations in response to the new cannabis businesses that will be permitted in our Village.
If you would like to share your thoughts on this issue with the Board of Trustees, you can send an email to MayorandBoard@vomny.com