Three Cities Say ‘Yes’ to Cannabis

Ithaca is planning to have cannabis dispensaries and cafes in the near future.

by Michael Nocella

While all local governments in New York, from small towns and villages to the biggest cities, have until December 31 to decide whether to ban adult-use marijuana retail and consumption spaces in their municipalities, three mayors recently announced they’re giving their cities the green light: Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Hamilton Mayor RuthAnn Loveless, and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick.

“I think it’s something our residents are looking for,” noted Sheehan, who participated – along with the two other mayors – in a roundtable discussion at the NY Cannabis Insider Conference in October. “There are still going to be a number of places where smoking is prohibited, including smoking marijuana. So if we’re going to have legalized marijuana and the ability to purchase it here, there have to be places to consume it as well.”

Ithaca, a city of roughly 35,000 people, is also planning to have cannabis dispensaries and cafes in the near future.

“Why did we decide to do it? Well there are financial reasons,” Myrick explained. “We want to maximize tax revenue from a business standpoint. It’s existed for a long time illegally, and has gone untaxed.

“The second is the issue of safety,” he added. “We want to know that folks who are using cannabis are using it in a regulated way; that it’s checked for quality and safety. Third, it’s a justice issue. We know that keeping it illegal has perpetuated the worst aspects of legal discrimination, especially against people of color.”

Mayor Loveless said her smaller village of 2,000 people will be taking a slightly modified approach. While they are opting in on the legalization of marijuana, they will be opting out of having cannabis cafes.

“We’re a very small village, but we’re also the home to Colgate University,” Loveless said. “When Colgate is in session, we grow to 5,000 people, but we’re still much smaller than cities like Ithaca and Albany. We were very concerned about representing our community and that it was not just a board decision.” 

How many, if any, consumption sites of marijuana – called “cannabis cafes” –is a popular talking point among municipalities at the moment While most cities that opt in will have dispensaries, the presence of cannabis cafes in addition is an evolving dialogue depending on the city.

“We did a lot of talking with the community” Loveless noted “and it appeared overwhelmingly that people supported it. However, at this point, we are probably going to opt out of the cafes. And we have a public meeting on it next week, and it will be interesting to see the kind of public feedback we get. I’m not anticipating much backlash. I think the idea of a dispensary was number-one on people’s mind.”

The four-hour NY Cannabis Insider Conference, hosted by Advance Media, took place virtually on Thursday, October 28. It’s goal was to provide actionable insights for those in the cannabis industry, while also serving as an entry point to understanding the billion-dollar medical marijuana, hemp, and legal weed industries. It is an economic opportunity that has everyone in New York State talking, from business owners and consumer, to residents and local politicians.

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