Getting cannabis on the books

Highland does dispensary due diligence

Posted 1/10/23

ELDRED, NY — No one’s lining up to open a dispensary in Highland yet.

However, if someone is fortunate enough to get one of the first-round New York State licenses to open an adult-use …

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Getting cannabis on the books

Highland does dispensary due diligence


ELDRED, NY — No one’s lining up to open a dispensary in Highland yet.

However, if someone is fortunate enough to get one of the first-round New York State licenses to open an adult-use cannabis retail dispensary, Highland is ready for them.

A new law, adopted on January 3, lays out where a dispensary can or cannot be located.  

“The key word here is ‘cannot.’ Where it cannot be located,” said Kevin Schwenzfeier from the Laberge Group, who presented the law at a public hearing held that evening.

Laberge has been consulting with the board’s code committee—councilmembers Fred Bosch and Chris Tambini—to develop the legal and procedural processes that come as a result of the town’s 2021 decision to allow a dispensary in town. The new law does not allow for onsite consumption places, from which the town opted out, and does not regulate medical marijuana.

The local law and the presentation were straightforward and there was the allowance of audience questions and feedback throughout the presentation. By the hearing’s end, there were three residents in attendance. Deputy highway superintendent Robert Robertson was present and on the board’s workshop agenda, which was scheduled after the reorganizational meeting, which followed the public hearing.

What’s in the law?

Beyond the cannabis-related definitions, the amendment to Highland’s Chapter 190’s stated purpose is to “safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the inhabitants of Highland.”

It goes further.

The law intends “to address, in a practical way, any secondary effects of the dispensaries on the peace and good order of town residents.” It points to the illegality on a national level of cannabis sale and consumption, recognizes that New York State has very strict guidelines as to who qualifies to open a dispensary, and regulates the number of dispensary licenses that will be given.

The state is divided into districts, and around 24 licenses are expected to be awarded in the seven-county Mid-Hudson region in this first round this year.

“New York State has come down really, really, hard on this use. We’re talking about a very top-down process,” Schwenzfeier said.

The local law lays out the approvals required and the standards that need to be maintained. It regulates that there is no public consumption, for example, in the parking lot of the dispensary or in public areas. It gives the town stringent land-use controls through the issuance of a special-use permit from the planning board, which could be revoked if any of the stipulations are not followed.

The approval process would consider the impact on the neighborhood, excessive traffic, noise, light, glare and other nuisances that might be associated with a dispensary.

A dispensary will only be permitted within the hamlet’s commercial-zoning district, and cannot be “located within 1,000 feet of the lot line of any educational institution, house of worship, public library, playground, park, or athletic field.”

Additionally, it cannot be located within 100 feet of any residential lot-line boundary.

In tandem with New York State, the local law regulates signage. It stipulates that any marketing message shall not be “designed in any way to appeal to children or other minors” or depict overconsumption. According to Schwenzfeier, only one very simple sign is allowed.

Attached to the local law is a map outlining the areas in the hamlet’s commercial district where a dispensary could be placed. While there are no sites in Yulan, there are a few in Eldred, most prominently north of the Under the Pines restaurant.

The Barryville spaces are along the Route 55 corridor near the intersection of Routes 97 and 55. The most prominent spot is in Minisink Ford, along Route 97, at the site of the proposed FIMFO redevelopment of Kittatinny Campgrounds. [See map, above.]

Schwenzfeier emphasized that each dispensary would need a New York State license, and the state has strict guidelines on who is eligible to receive one. He said that New York State was behind in issuing licenses per its own schedule.

In public comment, Barryville resident Nancy Esposito expressed concern and urged the board to keep a tight hand on the process. She questioned whether there would be adequate policing of the problems that could occur. Attorney for the town Michael Davidoff said that the town had the same coverage with the sheriff’s department as it used to and that if more was needed, it would be arranged. Esposito urged the town to consider the ramifications of the issue that more people were coming, due to development, and that a dispensary will introduce problems.

“This is a state law that says it’s coming; it’s here. We’re just trying to deal with the ramifications of these things and figure out where to locate them,” supervisor Jeff Haas said.

The board reiterated if there was any violation it would be noted by the code enforcement officer, and the special-use permit could be removed locally by the planning board, and not have to involve the state.

In passing the law, the board conducted a SEQR review and approved a negative declaration saying that there would be no major environmental impacts.

“I feel the law was very well written, and we are the first town in the county to do it,” Haas said.

“The state is still working on more regulations,” he said. “This is no way near done.”

Highland, cannabis, retail dispensary


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