WATERTOWN — Marijuana legalization has come to New York, but local governments will have a choice to make: should they allow dispensaries within their borders or keep them at bay?
In the north country, many local leaders said they’re still weighing the options.
According to the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday, cities, towns and villages will have the option to opt-out of allowing retail dispensaries, although they will have to forego the tax revenue potentially generated by the shops.
Under the MRTA, marijuana sales will be taxed at a 13% rate, with 9% going to New York state, 3% going to the local government and 1% going to the county.
To ban a dispensary, the local government’s legislature must pass a local law enacting the ban before Dec. 31.
Residents of a municipality can also force a referendum on the issue by circulating a petition. If the petition gets enough signatures from registered voters for that municipality, the local government must hold a referendum on a local law. If a majority of voters say yes to a ban in that referendum, it must be enacted.
Even if the municipal government decides not to enact an outright ban, they can still enact some restrictions on dispensaries within their borders, such as the way they can for liquor stores. Local governments could tell a dispensary to close at a certain time or regulate its signage and storefront appearance, for example.
Across the north country, many local leaders said they’re still learning about the ins-and-outs of the MRTA, but Ogdensburg Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly said he’s inclined to allow retail sales in the city.
He said if he had his way, he wouldn’t have seen marijuana legalization come to New York at all, but if it’s going to happen, the