With the passing of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) this spring, New York State became the 17th state to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana. While excitement about the newly budding industry has never been more palpable, it’s just the beginning for the regulatory and licensing framework that will be overseen by the newly created Office of Cannabis Management (OCM).
And for eager consumers and prospective cannabis entrepreneurs alike, there’s still several major regulatory hurdles left to clear. Among them is the power the new law gives municipalities to “opt-out” of hosting retail dispensaries and/or public consumption facilities within their borders. While at first glance it may seem like municipalities alone will decide the fate of these facilities, it’s easier than you think to make sure your voice is heard.
To learn more about the municipal opt-out power and how you can get involved with your municipality’s decision-making process, we turned to Marissa Weiss, Esq., an associate attorney at the Walden-based firm Jacobowitz & Gubits.
Understanding the “Opt-Out” Authorization
According to Weiss, cities, towns, and villages are now authorized to “opt-out” of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries and/or public consumption facilities (think cannabis bars) from locating within their municipal jurisdictions.
Municipalities cannot opt-out of any other type of license, or out of adult-use marijuana legalization generally because the MRTA legalized statewide consumption and cultivation of the plant. What happens if a municipality decides to opt-out? The OCM will be prohibited from issuing a license for a facility in that municipality in the future. A major caveat: a municipality only has until December 31, 2021 to pass a local law opting-out.
How You Can Get Involved
- Marissa Weiss, Esq., associate attorney at the Walden-based firm Jacobowitz & Gubits
According to Weiss, many residents may be concerned that their municipality will choose to opt-out (or opt-in!) without consulting its constituents. Although the December deadline seems far away, if you’re invested in either outcome you should be speaking up now. Get in touch with your municipal legislative board and ask exactly where the municipality stands on the topic currently.
If you’re in favor of dispensary and public consumption facilities in your municipality, express your support for the local socioeconomic benefits of opting-in. Municipalities that opt-in will receive three percent of the tax from adult-use recreational sales—a boon to many small towns.
Conversely, if you’re not in favor of dispensary and public consumption facilities in your municipality, you should express specific reasons why your municipality would be detrimentally impacted by the inclusion of such facilities within its borders.
If Your Municipality Opts-In
If your municipality decides to opt-in, you still have the power as a resident to put together a petition and gather signatures to require a local referendum on the pending opt-out law. However, Weiss cautions, the referendum is not required, so be sure to keep up with your local legislative process so you can stay in the loop.
In addition, even if your municipality opts-in, you can still participate in its potential adoption of reasonable “time, place, and manner” zoning restrictions for both dispensaries and public consumption facilities. Finally, prior to approving the location of any facilities, the state must notify your municipality—offering yet another opportunity for you to make sure your voice as a resident is heard.
You can learn more about the law firm of Jacobowitz & Gubits at Jacobowitz.com.