Village Board expected to ‘opt out’ with December vote
A handful of residents who attended a public hearing on Monday (Nov. 15) urged the Nelsonville Village Board to opt out of allowing retail marijuana sales and on-site consumption, a step the mayor and four trustees appear poised to take in December.
Last spring, New York State legalized the recreational use of cannabis and gave towns and villages until Dec. 31 to decide whether to allow stores and lounges within their borders. Those that opt out by the deadline can opt in later; those that do not cannot later change their minds.
Resident Heidi Wendel said on Monday that she favors opting out. “With a village as small as we are, it doesn’t make sense” to permit retail sales, which “would be difficult to monitor,” she said. A former U.S. attorney, Wendel added that she also is “worried it will encourage sale of other drugs on the side.”
Tom Campanile also said he supported opting out. He criticized the way the state has handled implementation of cannabis policies. “This thing is a mess,” he said. “We shouldn’t touch it.”
Another resident, Louis Murray, observed that pot “is still illegal, federally,” which means that banks cannot set up accounts for marijuana ventures. Consequently, he said, “they’re high-cash businesses,” which he said can lead to crime.
Frank Caccetta offered another perspective: “People around here have been smoking marijuana as long as I’ve been here.” He predicted that residents of Philipstown will go to nearby towns to obtain pot. “If you’re not going to stop them from smoking it, what the heck is the difference where they buy it?”
Trustee Maria Zhynovitch said she felt the board should opt out, mentioning her concerns with traffic and parking. Trustee Chris Winward remarked that with state regulations still pending, the unknowns include whether Nelsonville could control the number of pot establishments that open. “I personally never want see any dispensary or lounge in our tiny village,” she said.
Mayor Mike Bowman said that he felt “it makes sense at this stage to opt out, to see which direction things go and how much oversight the state really does provide.”
In other business …
- When residents questioned the use of leaf blowers by the village’s contracted street-maintenance service, Winward and Trustee Dave Moroney noted that the devices help prevent drains from clogging. Bowman promised to speak with the maintenance contractor about alternative approaches.
- The board set March 15 as the date for the 2022 election. The seats held by Mayor Bowman and Trustees Winward and Moroney will be on the ballot.