The Jay Town Council unanimously voted Thursday to opt out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licenses in town.
After recreational adult-use cannabis was legalized statewide in March, local governments were given until the end of this year to pass local laws opting out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licensing in their boundaries, which would mean opting out of receiving the tax revenue from cannabis sales, too.
If local governments don’t opt out by Dec. 31, their municipality will automatically be opted in.
The council held two public hearings for its cannabis laws at 6 p.m. on Thursday night, one hour before their 7 p.m. board meeting. Town Clerk Carol Greenley-Hackel said around 10 or 12 people from the town attended the hearings in person. She said those people spoke for the full hour, and the board had to cut the hearings off at 7 p.m. so they could begin the regular board meeting.
Greenley-Hackel said residents’ thoughts on dispensaries and on-site consumption licensing were mixed, and town Supervisor Matt Stanley said he thought their perspectives were split down the middle — some wanted to see “some regulation” on dispensaries and businesses with on-site consumption licenses and others thought that the shops should be allowed since cannabis is legalized across the state.
When asked if any of the town residents who spoke expressed intentions of starting a petition to place the decision of whether to opt in on the 2022 ballot, Greenley-Hackel said they had.
Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, local laws opting out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges are subject to a permissive referendum. If a Jay resident garners enough signatures on a petition — 10% of the number of town voters in the last gubernatorial election — then the cannabis laws can appear on the town’s 2022 general election ballot.
Stanley said that two board members, councilors Knut Sauer and Adam Coolidge, are interested in carrying petitions around the town to see if there’s enough interest in placing the laws on the ballot.
The public hearings and board meeting were open to the public at the community center, and while a livestreaming link was available via GoToMeeting, technical issues prevented the public from accessing the hearings and the meeting remotely.
Stanley said that the board didn’t realize the livestream wasn’t working until after the meeting was over. He said Friday that he hopes to establish a reliable hybrid system for meetings — in-person meetings with livestreaming capabilities — so that more residents can “actually be a part of the conversation.”
Stanley said that what “sold” him on voting to opt out was the idea that recreational cannabis was “rolled out so quickly.” He said that he and councilor Steve Forbes are still playing catch-up to what’s going on with the board, too; he and Forbes were sworn into their positions on Nov. 26.
Stanley said he believes that by passing the local laws opting out, the board will have more time to make regulations regarding cannabis. The state has established an Office of Cannabis Management to regulate cannabis production and sales.
Stanley said if the board can promote the fact that the law can go to a permissive referendum, that would “hand the power right back to our constituents.”
Sauer said he voted to opt out and plans to carry the petition with Coolidge to give the community the final decision on cannabis, instead of the board members having the last word.
“To have a referendum, I think, is in the interest of both sides,” he said, referring to community members who wish to opt out and those who wish to opt in.
Sauer said he believes at least a few of the board members don’t have a problem with allowing dispensaries, but that the board wants to get more clarity on cannabis laws and seek public input.