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To forestall a possible attempt by the Cayuga Nation to open a marijuana dispensary, Union Springs Village has drafted a local law banning the drug from being sold there.
The bill would make Union Springs the first Cayuga County community to oppose portions of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Bill signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 31.
The law, a 2013 amendment to the village’s zoning law, would ban marijuana dispensaries and consumption places, as well as the sale of tobacco and tobacco products, including vaporizers and e-cigarettes. The wholesale cultivation and processing of marijuana and marijuana products would also be prohibited anywhere, except in the agricultural residential and commercial areas of the village, where this would be permitted with a special permit. The law says its purpose is “to prevent the negative secondary effects of using, growing, processing and selling cannabis and nicotine”.
Union Springs Mayor Bud Shattuck told The Citizen on Friday that any company in the village that sells tobacco and tobacco products, namely the Cayuga Nation’s Lakeside Trading business, will be allowed to continue those sales through a grandfather clause. The law will be reviewed on April 15 by the county’s General Municipal Law Committee, and the village plans to pass it in May.
The village is moving fast according to the law, Shattuck said, because it believes the Cayugas intend to open a marijuana dispensary on property they acquired at 121 Cayuga St., in the middle of Union Springs. Officials fear this would create overwhelming traffic in the village, similar to Lakeside Trading in the past, as well as a negative impact on local youth.
The communities in the Cayuga County area weigh the pros and cons of rejecting portions of New York state law to legalize marijuana.
“To get something like this into our community – we’re concerned because students are walking past this block to get to school. It didn’t seem like a good thing,” Shattuck said. “But if they hadn’t bought this property in the village, if they had decided to forego (Lakeside Trading), we probably wouldn’t have started.”
Clint Halftown, the state-approved representative of the Cayugas, confirmed to The Citizen that the nation is buying the property that is currently Gus’ pizzeria. But he said there are no plans to open a pharmacy there. The Cayugas are just buying, he continued, because they want to get all the local commercial property they can.
Still, Halftown asked why the village would refuse to sell marijuana.
“I just don’t know why they’re choosing not to do something that might bring them more income,” he said. “If you don’t need it, fine for you, but I do.”
Two Union Springs residents also cited potential revenue when they objected to local law at a village public hearing last week, Shattuck said. Under the new state law, communities that do not choose not to sell marijuana will receive 75% of the local tax revenue they generate from April 1, 2022. The district receives the remaining 25%.
But, as Shattuck stated at a meeting of the village’s planning authority Thursday, he doesn’t expect that to be the case at Union Springs.
“We know when the Cayuga Nation does this there is no tax revenue because the state only pays back what they get and the Cayuga Nation pays no taxes,” he said.
Shattuck said at the meeting that Lee Alcott, the nation’s attorney at Barclay Damon, told him the nation intended to open a pharmacy in the village, even though the mayor did not mention his name. To confirm this, Alcott sent The Citizen the following statement: “As with its right to gamble in the village, the nation will pursue whatever means it deems appropriate.”
Alcott also did not answer a question about whether the Cayugas would challenge the village law. Shattuck said he believes they will, but he goes on to believe that it should be the state, not the community, that bears the burden of defending the law because it is a result of the Marijuana Ordinance and Tax Act.
Nor did Halftown directly say whether the Cayugas would challenge the village law.
“They do what they see fit,” he said. “We are a sovereign nation, so we have to do what we think is right for our people.”
Shattuck is confident that the village is doing what is right for its residents. A total of 23 people spoke at the public hearing last week, and all but four supported local law. The other two objecters cited their own use of marijuana. The mayor made it clear that Union Springs is not directly against the drug, and residents will be welcome to own their 3 ounces and grow their six plants.
“I grew up in the 60s,” he said. “We dont care.”
One in three Americans now lives in a state where marijuana is legal. Voters in four states approved campaigns to legalize marijuana on election day. 16 million residents of Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Now, join the 93 million Americans who have lived in states where cannabis has been legalized. Several other states were expected to take similar action, but campaigns failed because of problems caused by the pandemic. Proponents say the move towards legalization in both red and blue states will require uniform action by the federal government. Regardless of who controls the White House, House and Senate, we should call for landmark federal marijuana reform in 2021 through Politico, Steve Hawkins, Marijuana Policy Project. Proponents also see the passage of ballots to legalize marijuana as victories for criminal justice reform