ATHENS – The village council wants to fill two seats on a committee that will consider allowing legal cannabis dispensaries in the community.
“We have not quite achieved our goal of having filled the entire committee by now,” said Mayor Amy Serrago at the board meeting on Wednesday. “We have five so far.”
Village trustee Nancy Poylo will chair the committee and Serrago will serve as a member. Other members who signed up include Planning Committee Chair Margaret Moree and Waterfront Advisory Committee member Sam Sebren, as well as a local resident who asked to join the committee and was not named.
“We have five – I want seven,” said Serrago. “It’s a difficult time putting a committee together because everyone is on vacation. We should have nailed it by the next meeting. “
Recreational adult marijuana use was legalized on March 31st in a law signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The bill created a two-tier licensing structure and taxation system for the retail sale of cannabis.
The sale of marijuana will, by law, include a state excise tax of 9% and a local tax of 4%. The counties receive 25% of the local tax revenue and 75% go to the city, municipality or village.
Municipalities have until December 31st to opt out of allowing retail cannabis pharmacies to sell cannabis. If the community does not unsubscribe, pharmacies would automatically be approved.
The Athens Committee has the task of analyzing the problem and drawing up a plan. The village council will meet at its next meeting on August 25th at 6:30 p.m. in the fire station, 39 Third St.
“At our next meeting, I don’t want a public hearing, but a discussion to gauge what the community thinks about the legalization of marijuana and its future in the village of Athens,” said Serrago.
Residents who cannot attend the meeting can also contact the board by email.
“I think it would be a great way to start a conversation about what we’re going to do and how it’s going to be,” said Serrago.
Several public meetings are likely to be held before a final decision is made, the mayor added.
Village Trustee Rickie Gabrielle was initially against allowing cannabis dispensaries in the village, but has since had a change of heart.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people and they said, damn it, yes,” Gabrielle said with a laugh. “Middle-aged people – not teenagers – but they think they will get rich from it.”
Serrago replied that the taxes that could be generated could be substantial should a pharmacy open in the village.
“That would be a significant amount of tax revenue,” Serrago agreed. “That only works if someone wants to open a shop here.”
Gabrielle now supports the concept.
“I was against it at first, but you have my vote for it,” he said. “I have a lot of friends and relatives who say hell, yes.”
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