Opt Out on Pot? Philipstown Moves Closer to a Ban

Click to listen to this post.

Town Board approves electric-car charger, discusses federal aid 

The Philipstown Town Board voted 5 to 0 on Sept. 2 to advance a proposed law “to promote the public health, safety and welfare” by banning retail marijuana shops and on-site consumption venues.

Towns, villages and cities in the state have until Dec. 31 to opt out of a state law that will legalize both.

The board scheduled a hearing on Oct. 7 to hear public feedback. If Philipstown opts out, opponents could submit a petition asking that the question be placed on the 2022 ballot. In July, Cold Spring voted to opt out but decided to put the measure on the 2021 ballot. Nelsonville is also considering opting out.

Stephen Gaba, the town attorney, advised the board that by opting out, “you can buy yourselves some more time. You can always opt in later.” He noted that opting-out municipalities that want to opt-in down the road can meanwhile revise zoning laws to regulate the location of marijuana businesses.

Supervisor Richard Shea said that by weighing an opt-out “it’s not that we’re telling everybody” that they can’t consume marijuana, since legal pot “is the law of the land” in New York, and residents will likely be able to purchase it in Beacon or Peekskill if those communities approve retail sales. “But, in the interim, we probably will not,” he said.

Charging stations

The board voted unanimously to install a public, dual-port electric-car charging station at Town Hall, 238 Main St.

Krystal Ford, the town’s Climate Smart Program coordinator, said that the $21,211 price tag will be defrayed by a $8,000 state grant and a rebate from Central Hudson.

Ford and Councilor John Van Tassel said the town and Cold Spring explored another site on Main Street near the railroad tracks but rejected it because of concerns about traffic congestion and downhill stormwater flow.

Federal dollars

Shea reported that Philipstown has received the first half of $700,000 authorized by the American Rescue Plan, a federal COVID-19 relief package Congress passed in the spring. The remaining $350,000 should arrive in 2022, he said.

The federal government requires the money to be used for water and sewer or telecommunications-broadband upgrades; to alleviate the economic hardship COVID-19 inflicted on households, small businesses and the travel and tourism sector; or for similar purposes. It must be spent before 2025.

“We’re not going to have a problem” meeting the deadline, Shea said. He mentioned one priority: overhauling the Garrison water district system, which “is hemorrhaging money.”

Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown on the Putnam County Legislature, noted that the county so far has collected $9.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds, or about half what is expected. She suggested some of it could help with tourism-generated expenses in Cold Spring.

Putnam County “is getting a tremendous amount,” Shea remarked. He urged residents to recognize the county “as this amorphous thing. The county is the towns. We are the county. That money needs to come back to the towns, not just get put on pet projects.”

3 thoughts on “Opt Out on Pot? Philipstown Moves Closer to a Ban

  1. Kudos to the Philipstown Town Board. One step in the right direction. This could be the beginning of a new era – the healthy living common sense era?

  2. I fail to understand the self-defeating approach to cannabis legalization exemplified by the Cold Spring and Philipstown boards. For too long, tax dollars generated by the sale of cannabis products has poured out of New York into the coffers of Massachusetts and other states. For our cash-strapped villages and towns to turn away the tax revenue from cannabis sales is cowardly and fiscally stupid.

    While our governing boards give approving nods to festivals celebrating the production and recreational use of wine, beer, alcoholic cider and distilled spirits, somehow they fear that casual and medicinal use of cannabis is dangerous and must be suppressed to the point where legitimate, legal business ventures will be banned in Philipstown. This is the definition of timidity and hypocrisy.

    It’s not as if approving the mere possibility of a cannabis dispensary will create a menacing hoard of potheads on every corner, puffing away with clouds of smoke hovering over them! Any user will still have to abide by regulations already in place controlling smoking and access to the products. Many people in Philipstown already responsibly, respectfully and discreetly use cannabis in its many forms to alleviate pain and side effects from medical treatment or for an enjoyable puff to relax at the end of the day, just as one would sip a cold brew.

    It’s clear that it will be a long, difficult fight to get Carmel to share any sales tax revenue generated by our local businesses with our communities. Allowing cannabis dispensaries and lounges to operate in Philipstown and Cold Spring will guarantee a portion of the increased tax revenue be shared with our community.

    I firmly believe our local board members are intelligent, caring people and possess a progressive eye toward the future. But this decision is intentionally myopic, politically cynical, heartless to many who could benefit and fiscally irresponsible.

    • In the current climate, where civility is at an all-time low, Lynn Miller’s comment serves as another blow to public discourse.

      The Philipstown Town Board hosted multiple meetings and workshops on the issue of cannabis sales. Allow me to reassure anyone who thinks that our not jumping on the cannabis wagon is misguided.

      Under a state-imposed timeline, Philipstown needed to decide in September on its position on cannabis sales and on-site consumption. Our research showed us that the regulatory and fiscal management of this new market has not been sufficiently sorted. The truth is, neither the state Comptroller’s Office nor the Budget Office has their ducks in a row to ensure proper taxation and the return of those dollars to the local level.

      Our board unanimously deemed it prudent, for the protection of taxpayers and the public health, to delay the decision to opt in. Under the state legislation, that option is only available to municipalities once. The board feels that the state needs to have its regulation and taxation houses in order first, so we’re waiting. That’s the responsible course of local action.

      New York State is far from issuing any permits or approvals. The urgency placed on local governments to act at this time is a red herring in a time when the state, and particularly the former governor, wanted to give the impression of expedience. De-laying the opt-in gives the Town Board time to consider all aspects of this complex and far-ranging issue, and what we need to do from a local regulatory perspective. That’s what true local leadership looks like.

      The public has every right to bring this issue to a ballot initiative through the permissive referendum process.

      Shea is the Philipstown supervisor.