Will they or won’t they? Village boards throughout the Rivertowns have been peeking across their borders for nine months now, trying to figure out whether neighboring municipalities would permit or prohibit marijuana businesses, such as retail stores (dispensaries), or on-site consumption establishments (lounges).
New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, signed into law in March 2021, legalized adult use of cannabis and gave the State power to regulate its production and sale. But local municipalities were given a deadline of Dec. 31 to pass their own laws prohibiting cannabis retail dispensaries, on-site consumption lounges, or both. Towns that allow the deadline to pass without enacting an opt-out law are considered to have implicitly “opted in.”
The state law has another wrinkle: If a municipality lets the opt-out deadline pass without prohibiting either kind of business — and then regrets it — tough luck. That nine-month opt-out window was a one-time-only offer from the State. On the other hand, if a locality opts out of one or both forms of cannabis business now, they can reverse their decision.
Here’s the final tally: Hastings and the Town of Greenburgh opted out of lounges, but allowed dispensaries. Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, and Irvington opted out of both.
Hastings was the last to make it official on Tuesday, Dec. 21, when the village board passed a resolution to “opt out” of allowing cannabis lounges in the village, by a vote of 4-1 (Trustee Morgen Fleisig dissented).
Hastings’ board did not hold an official vote to opt out of cannabis sales because, in a poll of the board held on Nov. 16, the number of trustees who were in favor of allowing cannabis retail sales outnumbered those opposed by 3-2. That poll had been preceded by board meetings during which residents urged the board to opt out, citing the high use of cannabis at the high school. Others urged the board to wait and see how cannabis dispensaries affected communities where they were allowed. Nevertheless, the board exercised their prerogative to make the final decision, despite the disappointment of residents such as David Skolnik, who called into the Dec. 21 meeting to state the board “went into this whole process with an agenda, and despite the extensive public comment.”
The Greenburgh Town Board waited until Dec. 14, and voted 4-1 to allow dispensaries, with Town Supervisor Paul Feiner dissenting. The town board was unanimous in voting against lounges. During a Dec. 8 town board hearing, many residents supported opting out, and the Greenburgh Council of Civic Associations sent the Town a letter reporting that in a poll of their membership, the majority wanted to opt out.
Greenburgh Interim Chief of Police George Longworth, when asked by Feiner for his take on the subject on Dec. 8, said regional police chiefs were “strongly against” legalization.
“The fact that you can consume and potentially get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is certainly a dangerous aspect of it to be considered,” Longworth said.
But after the town board voted not to opt out of retail dispensaries, it unanimously passed a resolution directing the town planning department to draft a local law regulating the time, place, and manner that recreational cannabis dispensaries would be allowed to operate. The state Cannabis Control Board (CCB) will not grant dispensary applicants a license to operate within 500 feet of a school or 200 feet of a house of worship. Local governments can further restrict where such businesses can be located. Greenburgh’s law will prohibit dispensaries in residential zones or mixed-use corridors such as East Hartsdale Avenue, Central Avenue, or Tarrytown Road.
The Dobbs Ferry Village Board made their final decision on Nov. 23, when Mayor Vincent Rossillo and Trustees Maura Daroczy, Larry Taylor, and Nicole Sullivan voted against dispensaries, and Donna Cassell, Christy Kell, and Michael Patino voting in favor. Only Patino voted in favor of on-site consumption lounges.
Irvington voted unanimously to opt out of dispensaries and lounges on Nov. 1, as did Ardsley on July 6.
As of Dec. 22, according to the “Marijuana Opt-Out Tracker,” a data page created by the State University of New York’s Rockefeller Institute of Government, 523 out of 1,518 municipalities had opted out of allowing cannabis dispensaries, while 593 of the 1,518 had opted out of consumption lounges.