North Country neighbors take differing paths on pot

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BOONVILLE — Two north country towns have made two very different decisions revolving around cannabis and its sale in their municipalities.

On Dec. 29, the Boonville Town Board held a public hearing and then voted to opt-out of allowing licensing cannabis dispensaries or on-site cannabis dispensaries within the town.

Pantheon Collective LLC’s representatives were in attendance, including CEO Tyme Ferris and partner Thomas Kupiec. Ferris explained Pantheon’s interest in starting a cannabis microbusiness in Boonville and distributing various types of marijuana across the state using local farmers to grow the product or lease their land for growing marijuana. Manufacturing would take place in Boonville, and they would ship to distributors across the state.

Despite the interest, the Boonville Board voted 3 to 2 in favor of opting out. Boonville Town Supervisor David Stocklosa said in a statement that the town board members in favor of opting out made the decision out of caution.

“These members decided that there was not enough information on regulations from the state that are still pending,” Stocklosa wrote. “The board will be working on this subject and will update the public of any changes.”

The opt-out can be revered at any time by the Boonville Town Board, officials said.

Just next door, the town of Leyden became the only municipality in Lewis County that did not choose to opt-out, allowing adult marijuana-oriented businesses like dispensaries, cafes, and bars to open in town.

Leyden Mayor Rosalie White said in a published report that the decision was made unanimously by the four-member board and was surprised Leyden was the only municipality to do so. “People are going to get it somewhere,” White said. “They will go to the next town or city, and at this point, I don’t think anyone is planning to have it here. But things like that could change in the future.”

At a board meeting, the UP! Coalition of Lewis County raised concerns to the Leyden Board that marijuana is a gateway drug — a concern the board did not share. The concern of marijuana being smoked in parks and youth games was moot, with White saying smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are also restricted in these areas, according to the report.

While communities had until December 31 to opt-out of permitting cannabis dispensaries or on-site cannabis lounges, they cannot change the state law which legalized recreational use of marijuana with an age-use limit of 21, like cigarettes and alcohol, and legalized the growing of a small amount of marijuana for personal use.

According to state officials, about 40% of roughly 1,500 municipalities in New York opted out of legal pot sales by a Dec. 31 deadline. Those municipalities can later decide to opt-in. The state law allows using cannabis in public spaces, though New Yorkers can’t smoke or vape marijuana in locations prohibited by state law, including workplaces, indoors bars and restaurants, colleges and universities, hospitals and within 100 feet of a school.

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