Marijuana debate takes the stage in Shawangunk

BY RICK REMSNYDER
Posted 11/24/21

The Shawangunk Town Board is expected to vote to ban cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges in the town for the time being after a Dec. 16 public hearing is held on an opt-out local …

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Marijuana debate takes the stage in Shawangunk

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The Shawangunk Town Board is expected to vote to ban cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges in the town for the time being after a Dec. 16 public hearing is held on an opt-out local law.

The local law pretty much reflects the public statements of Town Board members over the past few months that the Town could buy more time to consider the issue in the future by opting out of allowing cannabis businesses right now.

The proposed law reads: “The Town Board finds that it would be premature to forego the opportunity to opt out at this time. Per the newly enacted Cannabis Law, a Town cannot opt out after Dec. 31, 2021, but it can opt back in any time after that date. The purpose of this local law is to preserve the right of a future Town Board to opt back in if, in its judgment, the same would promote the welfare of the citizens of the Town.”

About 15 town residents spoke both in favor and against allowing marijuana dispensaries and lounges in the town during an hour-long board meeting on Sept. 16.

Several speakers said the Town of Shawangunk should allow marijuana businesses to operate within town borders due to the tax revenue it would generate for the town from sales of the product.

Leif Spencer, a retired Newburgh police officer, was among those who urged the Town Board to ban both cannabis dispensaries and lounges in the town. He worried that there could be a rise in traffic accidents from those who consume the marijuana products they would purchase and then drive under the influence in the town.

On Nov. 9, the neighboring Town of Gardiner decided it would allow cannabis dispensaries to operate in Gardiner once the New York State Cannabis Control Board starts approving licenses for stores. Former State Sen. Jen Metzger of Rosendale, who is a member of the Cannabis Control Board, said that approval process probably wouldn’t occur until 2023.
Gardiner scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 14 to opt out of allowing cannabis lounges.

At the board’s Nov. 18 meeting, Shawangunk Supervisor John Valk said the decision to opt out of allowing marijuana businesses by the state-imposed deadline of Dec. 31 gives the town time to study all the options in the future.

“It buys us time,” he said. “We want to regulate it somewhat, so it’s just not in everybody’s backyard.”

Valk said he expects a good turnout for the public hearing on what he described as a “controversial” issue.

Based on public comments he heard in earlier meetings and viewing the results of a town-wide survey, Councilman Brian Amthor admitted the community seems “split” on whether to allow marijuana businesses to open in Shawangunk.

“But like a lot of towns in our area, I think it’s important that we opt out so we can stand back and have time to put a plan together and see what other towns are doing,” he said. “See what’s coming out from the state so we can do it right. If we jump in now, we’re stuck and we have to live with it. We know it’s the future and the way things are going, so we want to do it right.”

In other news, the Town of Shawangunk Police Department and the Walker Valley Fire Department are having a “Stuff the Bus” event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 4 at the firehouse.

Food and/or hygiene products will be split and donated to the New Prospect Food Pantry and the Wallkill Reformed Church Food Pantry.Donations can be dropped off during business hours at the Town Police Department, Jay Dee’s Deli, Third and Company and Borderline Deli.

For more information, email Officer Nicole Brooks at ofc.brooks@shawangunk.org or call the police station at 845-895-2233.

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