After a lengthy public hearing Tuesday night, the Glen Cove City Council voted unanimously to opt out of allowing cannabis retail dispensaries and onsite consumption locations. Opponents and proponents spoke passionately, offering facts and statistics to make their cases.
Municipalities that choose to opt out of marijuana sales prior to the state’s Dec. 31 deadline can reverse their decisions and opt in at a later date, but choosing to opt in will preclude them from opting out in the future.
Tuesday’s meeting was the second public discussion on the matter, the first having taken place on Nov. 23. The public hearing has technically remained open since then, allowing residents an opportunity to express their opinions to members of the City Council over the three-week period. In the end, however, council members said they did not believe the city had enough guidance from the state to opt in now.
“I would love to see the benefits of cannabis being sold in Glen Cove, financially, and be kind of a leader in this initiative,” Councilwoman Marsha Silverman said while casting her vote. “However, at this point, with the New York state commission just starting to get established, we do not have enough in place right now to make the decision that’s irreversible if we opt in. The prudent thing to do is to opt out now, and revisit that. I do make a commitment that I will do my best to bring this back, and when we have more full information on zoning, planning and licenses and regulations in place, that we do revisit this. It would be an easy way to generate revenue . . . there could be benefits, but we’re just not ready yet.”
The resolution states the city’s opt-out decision prohibits only the retail sale of adult-use cannabis and the existence of on-site smoking locations. Opting out still allows residents to grow and consume marijuana in their homes, which will not violate the state’s cannabis laws.
Many of those who spoke in favor of opting out cited a potential rise in crime, particularly since the vendors would have to operate as cash businesses: Marijuana sales are illegal under federal law, so most banks will not work with businesses that sell it. Others said they were concerned about the health of children and young adults. Another common concern was the fact that most surrounding municipalities had already opted out — the Town of Oyster Bay having made the decision just a week earlier — which would likely bring more consumers to Glen Cove if it legalized sales.
Those on the other side argued that legalization would result in a financial windfall, because more businesses could open, and the city would receive 3 percent of the sales tax revenue from all purchases. To council members, however, that, too, was cause for concern, indicating the challenges the city could face if it opted in.
“I think what’s very telling is that the Office of Cannabis Management just appointed their leaders less than 60 days ago,” Councilwoman Danielle Fugazy Scagliola said. “They’re not prepared, and we’re not prepared in terms of zoning where people can smoke. There are so many layers that need to be figured out before we can go ahead and do this . . . I’d much rather have all of those variables scrutinized first, and then make a decision that makes sense for the community.”
Councilman John Perrone agreed that now is not the right time to opt in. “Clearly this is a one-way decision,” he said. “You make this decision and there’s no turning back. As legislators, we have to think of the future of our community. I wholeheartedly understand the desire of people thinking this is a financial win for the community, but . . . we need to make sure before we take these steps.”
Councilwoman Eve Lupenko-Ferrante said there were many more associated issues than potential revenue, including the fact that credit cards and checks could not be used to pay for products; there is no way to test impairment while driving; and the purity and safety of cannabis products is not regulated. Lupenko-Ferrante also said there needed to be legislation in place to prevent marketing those products to children.
“We have been given the power to vote on opting in sales,” she said, “but we have not yet been given the tools to do so in a safe, protected manner.”
Mayor Tim Tenke said he appreciated everyone who spoke and provided information. The hundreds of other communities that have already opted out, he said, likely faced the same dilemma, and he added that the issue isn’t whether or not lawmakers are against smoking marijuana. “It’s not the right time to do this,” Tenke said. “We can always opt in when things are put in place. There are great arguments for both sides on this, but you have to do it the right way. I think this is the prudent way to proceed.