DELMAR — The Bethlehem Town Board is opening the floor to the public to weigh in on the topic of whether or not to allow cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges in town when it next meets Wednesday, Nov. 10.
Albany opened the doors to recreational marijuana use, and a new commercial market to support it. But, state legislators also allowed each municipality to decide for themselves if they want to permit dispensaries or on-site consumption lounges in their towns, or disallow them altogether.
The legalization of adult-use cannabis is an enormous public policy shift so the regulatory framework is expected to take time before it is fully developed. The Office of Cannabis Management will need to draft and issue regulations to implement the law in order for adult-use sales to begin. However, while there are currently no stores open to purchase adult-use cannabis, the possession and use of cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older in accordance with the MRTA, is now legal.
Town Planning Director Robert Leslie said he would anticipate new dispensaries or lounges would want to seek storefronts in the town’s established commercial areas — Delaware Avenue, Route 9W or New Scotland Road. Prospective locations are already limited by their relative distance from schools and churches. For example, lounges would be at least 500 feet away from school grounds and 200 feet away from a house of worship. MRTA allows towns to extend those thresholds even farther.
Leslie later used the neighborhood bar analogy to describe its use. Where a customer could buy alcohol, sit down and consume the product. He then likened a dispensary to a beverage center where consumers can purchase the product to use at home.
Municipalities weighing the benefits to allow dispensaries and lounges will consider the taxable income it promises. A statewide 9 percent tax would be charged on all sales. Another 4 percent would be levied locally, with 3 percent going to the town in which the business resides while the other 1 percent goes to the respective county.
Unlike the tobacco license process Bethlehem introduced last year, the state will not allow for locally issued licenses. A new Office of Cannabis Management will issue licenses and develop regulations.
Colonie and Ballston Spa have each opted to allow for dispensaries, but chose to go without on-site consumption lounges. Whether Bethlehem decides to follow in similar fashion will happen after the Town Board listens to the public before passing a local law anticipated for December.