Residents urge Philipstown city council to allow cannabis businesses

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Officials propose committees to fight local hunger

Residents last week urged the Philipstown Town Board to opt out and allow marijuana stores to open soon.

They spoke out in a public hearing on October 7th on a bill stating that Philipstown would ban cannabis deals, at least for the time being. Only one speaker supported this idea.

On other matters, the board discussed local hunger, a problem even in “a wealthy city like Philipstown,” said Supervisor Richard Shea during a long session at City Hall.

Earlier this year, New York State legalized the recreational use of cannabis by adults. It plans to license marijuana shops and lounges and has given towns and villages until December 31st to opt out of licensing. Churches that do nothing – and thus decide – cannot retrospectively reverse their position. But those who opt out in 2021 can opt in later. State law pays 4 percent of cannabis taxes back to communities.

Anthony Lise, who lives and practices law in Garrison and hopes to start a cannabis business, told the board that “the community supports opt-in,” which “will encourage small business growth, support local farmers and increase tax revenues . Any increase in tax revenue is a good thing. ”When Philipstown signs out this fall, but then comes back on at a later date,“ we’ve wasted so much time, ”cannabis entrepreneurs instead looked to nearby communities, and there the state The number of licenses available is limited, “no one can be” left “for pot shops in Philipstown, Lise said.

Colin Wright, a Philipstown farmer who serves on the Putnam County’s Agriculture Committee and runs the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market, advised the board that “it would be unwise to opt out.”

Eric Arnold, who serves on the city’s overall planning committee but spoke as an individual, noted that the bill is aimed at protecting the city but “if we were really concerned about public health, safety and welfare , we wouldn’t do it “. Unsubscribe. “Refusing to accept licensed cannabis companies only encourages an underground illegal market, he said.

Cold Spring resident Tara Vamos argued that “we should definitely allow cannabis sales”. She and other opt-in supporters denied claims that the presence of cannabis facilities would lead to drug use among adolescents, reduce property value, or cause social problems. Vamos said she occasionally goes to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to buy cannabis, “a beautiful, sweet town” where “nothing terrible has happened” since cannabis companies started operating.

The board members were skeptical.

“I have no support for any kind of smoking,” said councilor John Van Tassel, who is running for the city council without resistance. (Shea is retiring.) “I am certainly not going to say that I am here to support the use of cannabis in any way. It will take a lot of persuasion to change my mind. “

Councilor Judy Farrell underlined the board’s need for input from across the community, “not just a select few who have an interest in a cannabis business or the tax revenue it might generate. We have to do our due diligence. “

The expected marijuana tax revenue “is not the enormous amount” some might imagine, Councilor Robert Flaherty said. “

Alderman Jason Angell said he was still listening, still thinking about it. He recommended considering the potential impact of pot shops on shopping streets and streets, among other concerns.

“What is really driving,” is the board’s interest in opting out, “the fact that we have a decision to make,” but the time, energy, and resources to complete necessary zone changes and related revisions this fall, Shea said . “It’s just not going to happen. We have too many other priorities “like infrastructure and” food insecurity “. In this city, children go to bed hungry tonight, ”he said. “This is not an exaggeration. That’s a fact. I’ve seen it. So when I spend time and money on something, these issues come first. “

Angell suggested that the board set up a committee to combat local hunger, and said the latest US census found 120 households in Philipstown with incomes below the state poverty line, houses “believed to be chronically food insecure.” are”.

Shea described the committee as “a commendable … achievable goal.” He also reported on efforts to help residents stricken economically during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. City officials raised donations ranging from small amounts to $ 50,000 to $ 100,000 in some cases, and used the funds to purchase cards for groceries, pay for medical prescriptions, and otherwise provide assistance. They helped not only the people of Philipstown, but residents of Beacon, Peekskill, Newburgh and elsewhere, he said, and distributed $ 461,000 in relief supplies.

“It’s more than unsettling to see things in our own garden that you just don’t expect to see,” Shea said. Even when the pandemic subsides, “we will make sure we don’t leave people behind,” he promised.