Since New York legalized recreational marijuana in March, local leaders are deciding whether their communities should opt-out of permitting cannabis dispensaries in their towns.

According to the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, should a town decide to opt-out, they can always decide to opt back. However, if a community doesn’t decide to opt-out by the deadline, it will be unable to do so afterward. Opting-out also doesn’t mean that recreational marijuana would be banned by a town, only that dispensaries would be forbidden.

Opinions on opting out have varied among town supervisors in Niagara County. Wilson Supervisor Doyle Phillips supports his town's decision to opt-out from last month. Meanwhile, Lockport Town Supervisor Mark Crocker is opposed to opting-out. The opinions of both supervisors are based around the potential dispensary sales tax revenue. Phillips argued that the small percentage of money the town would receive from the sales tax, would ultimately not be worth letting a dispensary open. Similarly. Crocker believes that it would be a bad idea for Lockport to pass on potential tax revenue from a legal substance.

At a Hartland town board meeting on Nov. 11, board members discussed the issue. The board unanimously supported opting out. A vote to enact the law will occur next month.

“Down the road if it’s determined that if we want to opt back in, we always have that choice,” Hartland Supervisor Ross Annable said after the meeting, “but at this present time we don’t feel it’s something we want to have in the town of Hartland.”

Officials in Cambria are set to discuss the issue during a meeting today.

For the moment, towns are deciding to opt out so they can watch and wait for how recreational marijuana will function in New York State. Since they would still have the choice to opt back in whenever they want, they are more comfortable with keeping their options open if they change their minds later. The deadline for towns to pass opt-out laws is Dec. 31 of this year.

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