Allegany Town Board hears public comments on cannabis dispensaries

Jeff Branch (left) with his wife, Barbara, questions members of the Allegany Town Board Tuesday at a public hearing on cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities. Board members from left are Alexander Nazemetz, Craig Maguire and Supervisor James Hitchcock.

ALLEGANY — Eight residents attended a public hearing Tuesday called by the Allegany Town Board for input on on marijuana retail dispensaries and consumption sites.

The consensus from the public was not to opt out of the licensing of the cannabis dispensaries because of the potential tax revenue involved.

Supervisor James Hitchcock said the board was looking for public input on the matter of local licensing of cannabis businesses.

While not a lot is known about the licensing process, it appears the town and village would split 3% of the tax revenue and 5% would go to the state.

“We haven’t got a lot of information from the state on revenue,” Hitchcock said during the hearing. “It’s difficult to make decisions at this point.”

The meeting was held at the Allegany Senior Center on Birch Run Road because the Town Hall is undergoing renovations.

The town board has the option of opting out of the process now and opting in later when the details of the licensing program are known. Municipalities must decide by Dec. 31.

“We’re kind of waiting to see how things roll out,” said Councilman Alexander Nazemetz. “We don’t have a lot of detail.”

The town is automatically in if they don’t opt out by Dec. 31 — and the town cannot opt out after that.

“How will the Town of Allegany benefit from you saying yes?” Jeff Branch asked the board.

“We haven’t got a lot of information from the state on revenue,” Hitchcock answered.

Branch’s wife Barbara asked what other towns are doing.

The board was only aware of one town that had opted out, the Town of Ashford.

“What about complications” involving police and ambulances, Barbara Branch asked.

One town resident, Chris Martin, said, “It’s going to be legal. To not benefit seems foolish. It would be a missed opportunity.”

Scott Simpson agreed, saying, “We’re going to miss out on revenue” if the town opts out. “It’s going to happen, no matter what.”

Nazemetz said, “We want to make sure Allegany does it right. We wanted to make sure you had some input.”

Hitchcock said the Town Planning Board would be involved in where the dispensaries could be located. They will not be located in residential areas, he said, suggesting industrial areas or along Constitution Avenue as possible locations for the dispensaries.

Jeff Simpson wondered if the town would be better off opting out of the cannabis dispensaries process for now and opt back in once the rules and issues are more clear.

Nazemetz said he was for the dispensary and onsite usage “with rules and regulations. You can’t have it be the Wild West.”

Councilman Craig Maguire said he would probably vote for cannabis dispensaries. “I haven’t heard much reaction one way or another.”

Another man summed up his feelings, saying, “If we’re not in, we’re screwed.”

Councilman Kathleen Martin said she was in favor because of the revenue. “The pressure is on to see that it’s done correctly.”

“The town can always use more revenue,” Hitchcock observed. He said he just wants more information and guidance from the state.

Town board members said the village of Allegany — which didn’t hold a public hearing — has decided it won’t opt out of the cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption.

The town and village can come to an agreement on how to divide the revenue or it will be split 50-50.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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