Dansville will let voters decide if marijuana dispensaries, consumption sites will be allowed

One Dansville business owner believes the future of his enterprise will be decided by the outcome of the public vote.

Chris Potter
The Evening Tribune

DANSVILLE — Dansville voters will decide next month if marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites will be allowed within the village limits.

The village board passed a local law Dec. 21 to opt out of dispensaries and consumption sites, but put a provision in place requiring a public referendum on the matter within 60 days.

Mayor Peter Vogt said the measure marked a compromise between the board and marijuana proponents who spoke during a public hearing on the village's decision to opt out.

“We originally thought we’d go ahead with (opting in), but the more the state dragged its feet on it, the more questionable it became to the board,” said Vogt. “Everybody says it’s pretty straightforward, but we’re not convinced it’s that straightforward. They just got their (Cannabis) Board together in the fall. Nothing was done under Gov. Cuomo. Gov. Hochul has moved it along, but we wanted to get a bit more detail. The board also wanted to get a feel for what the community wanted.”

Vogt said the referendum will include several propositions: whether to allow both marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites, neither, or a split. The City Council in Corning, for example, elected to allow marijuana sales but declined to OK consumption sites. The exact date of the referendum in Dansville has yet to be decided.

Steve Litteer, founder and CEO of 4Fathers Organics in Dansville, is hoping village voters will support local cannabis dispensaries and consumption sites during a February referendum.

How referendum will impact local business

Steve Litteer opened 4Fathers Organics in Dansville in January 2020. Currently specializing in hemp and CBD products, Litteer views marijuana sales as essential to the continuing viability of the Franklin Street business.

The Dansville native is convinced the fate of his enterprise will be decided by the outcome of the public vote.

“If the village opts out we won’t have much of a choice but to pack up and leave and go elsewhere, unfortunately,” said Litteer. “We won’t be able to compete as a CBD-only business once legalization fully comes out. CBD is just one of a hundred cannabinoids that come out of the cannabis plant. If there’s a place that will have THC, CBD, CBG, et cetera, customers are more likely to frequent there because they want options.”

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New York signed legislation earlier this year legalizing cannabis consumption for adults 21 and over wherever tobacco products can be used, with the exception of driving a vehicle. The law also gave local municipalities the opportunity to opt-out of allowing dispensaries and consumption sites. Municipalities that didn’t take action before Dec. 31 automatically opted in.

The town of North Dansville and Dansville’s neighbors to the south in the Canisteo Valley, including the city of Hornell, also opted out in December. Once a municipality opts in, it cannot opt out.

Many municipalities who opted out cited state cannabis guidelines that are still in flux, and the ability to opt in at a later date. Litteer sees flaws in that logic.

“Because the demand is so high and the supply is going to be so low, and because of the newness of it, the price point is going to be at its highest when it first comes out,” said Litteer. “That’s going to be the highest amount of revenue that townships are going to get. The townships are gambling on opting in later, but who knows whether or not licenses will be available at that time for localities, and who knows where the market is going to be at that time. They could be forgoing a ton of revenue that’s definitely going to be there at the onset.”

The state has indicated marijuana sales will be taxed at a rate of around 13%, with 9% going to the state, 3% to the city, town or village where the sale is made and 1% to the county.

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Referendum ‘the best way to go’

Litteer and Vogt do agree on one point — the lack of official cannabis regulations has left elected officials and entrepreneurs alike in limbo. Litteer plans to remain in retail, but may consider a grow and processing operation depending on what the regulations from the Cannabis Board ultimately look like.

“Until their regulations are published and out there, we don’t have any idea what the process is going to be definitively,” said Litteer. “We don’t have any idea what the licensing fees are going to be, or whether they’re going to have only so many licenses available per region. We just don’t know until those regulations come out.”

Litteer has been active in the marijuana industry, serving on the board of the Rochester chapter of NORML and other advocacy groups such as the New York Hemp Lab and the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association.

He expects at least a draft set of regulations to be released for public comment sometime in the first quarter of 2022. Most observers estimate that retail dispensaries won’t open until late 2022, at the earliest.

In the meantime, municipalities that have opted in may plan for how to regulate where and when marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites may operate within their borders.  

“It’s legal, so that cat is out of the bag already,” said Vogt. “Now, it’s how we regulate it.”

Litteer said the pending state regulations primarily impact prospective licensees rather than municipalities. He is content putting the question before Dansville voters in February.

“I would rather the whole village choose our destiny as opposed to just five individuals,” he said. “Ultimately I think it was the best way to go.”

Chris Potter can be reached at cpotter@gannett.com or on Twitter @ChrisPotter413. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.