Opting In Or Out?

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The Village of Flower Hill Board of Trustees. (Screenshot by Caroline Ryan)

On June 7, the Village of Flower Hill held their first of three public hearings regarding the potential for the village to opt-out of retail cannabis sales.

Proposed local law No. E would authorize the Village of Flower Hill to opt-out of allowing retail cannabis dispensaries and/or on-site cannabis consumption establishments to locate and operate within their boundaries.

Under New York State legislation, cities, towns and villages can render their own decisions regarding recreational marijuana sales in their areas. They have until Dec. 31, 2021 to render a decision, but if they decide not to opt-out, that decision is permanent.

“If we don’t opt-out by the end of 2021, we are forever allowing marijuana facilities in the village,” Deputy Mayor Randall Rosenbaum said. “By opting-out now we are controlling our own destiny. So if it’s something that, for some reason, the future board—in a year, five years, ten years wants to do—it gives them that opportunity to then opt back in. But by not opting-out, we’ve cemented the marijuana facilities in the village. So to me, it makes a lot of sense to opt-out.”

The Town of North Hempstead has not opted out of recreational marijuana sales yet, which could affect the possible income the village would receive from taxes if they chose to opt into the sale of recreational marijuana. Opting into the sale would allow the village to receive a minimal percentage of tax revenue.

“It is a possibility that the village might have to share that revenue with the Town of North Hempstead, so what could’ve been maybe 3 percent, now possibly becomes maybe 1.5 percent,” Rosenbaum said. “There have been some people who have mentioned the fact of wanting to have these additional revenues, but they are not as big as I assumed they could have been.”

The deputy mayor added that if for some reason the residents disagree with the boards decision to opt-out, they could create a petition that with enough signatures would be able to overrule the decision of the board regarding the local law.

“If they got enough people to petition, it would then go before a public vote,” Rosenbaum said. “It’s a very rare opportunity for residents to overturn some local law that a board enacted.”

Rosenbaum further stated that while the village cannot outright ban the consumption of marijuana in the village, they can ban recreational marijuana consumption on any village properties.

“I know there was some concern that if there are these types of facilities in the village that people will be able to start smoking all over,” Rosenbaum said. “The only place the village can ban public consumption of marijuana is in the village properties—in this case it would be in the village hall and in the village park. But we can’t out-law smoking on the streets.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, one resident stated that he was in favor of the village opting-out.

“I am in full support of us opting out,” Mitchell Schwartz said. “I feel that the benefits of us opting-out out-weigh the cons. I understand it’s a somewhat contentious session but I am fully in favor of us opting out.”

Village administrator Ronnie Shatzkamer stated that at the time of the meeting, the village had not received any official comments for or against this local law.

Deputy Mayor Rosenbaum stated that he was disappointed that the residents who feel strongly about this local law didn’t appear before the board to express their concerns.

“I have to say I am a bit disappointed that there are some residents who feel the need to send letters to other residents and then they don’t even show up at these meetings to express their concerns or formally send those concerns to the board,” the deputy mayor stated.

The board ultimately voted to adjourn the public hearing until their meeting next month.
Under the Village of Flower Hill’s local law, the village must hold three public hearings on non-emergency matters before they are allowed to take a vote. The hearings for this proposed local law will take place on Monday, July 12 and Monday, Aug. 2 at 7:30 p.m. The village board will not have the opportunity to vote on this local law until at least the August meeting.

For more information, visit www.villageflowerhill.org.

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