ATHENS – Could legal marijuana dispensaries or bars be directed to Athens?
The village council held an informal community discussion on Wednesday to gauge the local response to state legalization of adult cannabis and whether or not the village should choose to do so.
“We want to talk about how we’re moving forward,” said Mayor Amy Serrago. “We put a committee together – we’re going to appoint it tonight – and then the first thing that committee has to see is whether we want to unsubscribe?”
Former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law on March 31 to legalize cannabis for recreational use by adults. A state excise tax of 9% and a local tax of 4% are levied on the sale of marijuana. The counties receive 25% of the local tax revenue and 75% goes to the city or village according to the legislation.
Communities can refuse to sell cannabis. The deadline for deregistration is December 31st.
“They’ll have retail stores as well as pot bars,” Serrago said on Wednesday. “You can deactivate either both or one of them. If we choose, we don’t mind people coming into the village and buying their weed and taking it home, but maybe we don’t want a whole bar of it.
“I think the first step is how do we feel about it?”
The community board unanimously approved a seven-person committee to consider the issue. Village trustee Nancy Poylo will chair the committee. Members also include Serrago, Planning Committee Chair Margaret Moree, Waterfront Advisory Committee Member Sam Sebren, Village Secretary Mary Jo Wynne, and Local Citizens Yves Goldberg and Caitlin Van Valkenburg.
Serrago said local sentiment seemed to be leaning in favor of allowing cannabis sales in the village.
“It’s legal in the state and there is money to be made,” Serrago said. “The state will tax 13%, which is 7% less than Massachusetts, and 9% will go to the state and 4% will go to the local community. One percent of this is taken by the county and we would have to make an agreement with the city on how the other 3% would be split because if we didn’t, it would be split in half and we would end up with 1.5% of the sales tax. “
The problem only arises when a cannabis dispensary wants to open its doors in the village, added Serrago.
Resident Bill Sproat asked how much money is at stake.
“Are there any studies on possible tax revenues?” asked Sproat.
Village Trustee Joshua Lipsman said it depends on how successful the business is.
“I think it depends on how attractive a business makes itself – how some restaurants make a lot of money because people like to go to them and others don’t so much, they go out of business,” Lipsman said.
A cannabis dispensary that opened in Massachusetts is generating huge revenue for the local community, Poylo said.
“When you go to Great Barrington and see what that one store has done for downtown Great Barrington, it’s amazing,” said Poylo. “It has brought such an influx of people – there are more people shopping, eating, having lunch.”
The additional income could be a boon to a small village like Athens, Lipsman said.
“Suppose a company has sales of half a million dollars in one year. One and a half percent of that is about $ 7,500, so not a lot of money, but in a village with a $ 1 million budget, $ 7,500 is $ 7,500 that we didn’t have before, ”he said.
Sproat asked if the village was also considering allowing marijuana plants to grow.
“We don’t necessarily have the space in the village for that, so I think it would be more of a pharmacy or a bar for us,” Lipsman said.
The committee will also look at zoning and what the village’s current regulations allow, Poylo added.
Local resident Robert Brunner asked about plans in other Greene County communities.
“Do you have a sense of what the neighboring cities are going to do?” asked Brunner.
The village will take that into account, said Serrago.
“We wanted to see that,” said Serrago. “Greenville already has a committee – that started a fire among us.”
A resident asked about zoning issues.
State guidelines on cannabis dispensaries are sparse right now, but the village can get the ball rolling, Serrago said.
“A lot will be determined by the state, but there are also many decisions that we as a municipality can make,” said Serrago. “The first step is to decide if we want to get out – it’s a decision we have to make by the end of the year. It looks like no.
“Once we get to that point, we can begin developing our plan for how we will have this new industry in our community,” added Serrago. “It’s very informal [tonight]. We will have actual public hearings and receive written comments from people. “
A date for a formal public hearing has not yet been set.
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