Mount Kisco is likely to become the latest municipality to opt out of retail marijuana sales and consumption lounges within its borders, continuing a trend among area local officials of needing more time to gauge impacts.
At a special work session last week, the four Village Board members in attendance reached consensus that with the provision in the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act allowing municipalities to legalize sales and/or facilities to consume at any time in the future, opting out was the best choice for the community.
For those local governments that decide to allow dispensaries and consumption sites, they cannot change course.
“We can always opt back in at some time in the future but opting out now gives us a good opportunity to see how things unfold for the next period of time with the relatively new legislation,” said Deputy Mayor Anthony Markus. “I certainly recognize all the pros and cons on that issue, but I’d rather see this unfold over a period of time, it will give us an opportunity to see how this new law is working out before we make a decision that we can never reverse in the future.”
Mayor Gina Picinich said she has no doubt that at some point in the future retail marijuana sales will be legal in the village since there is clearly momentum in favor of the industry among many citizens, but there are too many unanswered questions for her to support it at this time.
Picinich said the state’s regulatory framework, including the Cannabis Control Board and the Office of Cannabis Management, has not yet been created and it is unknown who will be appointed to fill those vacancies.
She also pointed to the issue facing police who do not yet have a breathalyzer-type test or a definitive method to gauge when someone is considered impaired by marijuana, which needs to be figured out.
“So I’m not comfortable, yet, permitting sales in our community when all the parts and pieces have not yet been determined by the state, by law enforcement and by whatever other agencies are out there,” Picinich said.
Trustee David Squirrell agreed that there are currently too many unknowns for the village to allow sales at this time. However, as the chief attorney for the Putnam County Legal Aid Society, he said he’s aware of the inequities that have been brought on by the state previously having criminalized marijuana.
Squirrell also urged his board colleagues to not dismiss the potential for future economic benefit for the village. He recommended the board consider assembling a village task force to study a variety of possible impacts. Members should include law enforcement, drug treatment professionals, physicians on both side of the issue, the local business community, parents and residents of the community at large.
“I agree that we should consider opting but at this time putting a time frame in to form a community committee with all the necessary stakeholders so this can be addressed thoroughly so that any future decision on this is made with full community involvement,” he said.
The other board members agreed that a local committee would be beneficial.
Trustee Karen Schleimer said there was nothing to lose for the village to opt out, although she would like to get an estimate on how much revenue could be generated by opting in.
“You can opt in two days later after you opt out,” Schleimer said. “There is really no great loss to waiting and seeing what other people’s decisions are and what their experience is.”
The board scheduled a public hearing for its next meeting on Monday and could vote to formally opt out at that time.
Other municipalities that have already opted out include Eastchester, Somers and North Castle. To allow retail marijuana sales, a municipality can choose to take no action between now and the end of the year.