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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Village Board said 'No;' Residents said 'Yes' to MRTA

Dansville residents’ vote opens door for Village cannabis sales

Business owner Steve Litteer has long been an advocate for cannabis and the state’s Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act. He shared his love for CBD, or cannabidiol, and hemp through the opening of 4Fathers Organics, and now hopes to become a cannabis dispensary after residents of the village of Dansville voted to opt-in to MRTA.

“I was beyond elated when I found out the news and I was in a state of shock there for a couple of days. We almost had a 2 to one vote in favor of the dispensaries and that is what we intend to be and now we have the opportunity to do so.” said Litteer, who said 4Fathers Organics intends to become a cannabis dispensary once the laws and licensing are finalized.

Village residents gathered enough signatures to force a permissive referendum on the issue after the village board decided to opt-out. That decision was overturned on Feb. 15.

Residents voted on two propositions: “Should the Village of Dansville continue to opt out of (prohibit) licensing and establishing retail cannabis dispensaries within the Village of Dansville?” and “Should the Village of Dansville continue to opt out of (prohibit) the licensing and establishing on-site cannabis consumption establishments within the Village of Dansville?”

Both resolutions were defeated, according to unofficial results from the Livingston County Board of Elections.

The first proposition had 161 votes to continue the prohibition of cannabis dispensaries, and 276 votes to allow the licensing of such dispensaries.

For the second proposition, 184 people votes in favor of continuing to opt out of the licensing of on-site cannabis consumption establishments, while 250 people voted no.

With the results, the village of Dansville has opted-in to MRTA, and people and businesses will eventually be able to apply for licensing and establishing of cannabis dispensaries and for the licensing and establishment of on-site cannabis consumption sites. Had the “yes” votes outnumbered the “no” votes, the the village would have continued to opt out of MRTA.

“Right now, we have no idea how it will impact the village, particularly since the state doesn’t even have the regulations in place,” said Mayor Peter Vogt. “Nothing is going to happen overnight.”

Litteer, whose Franklin Street business, specialize in hemp and CDB products was very vocal on social media about the importance of the MRTA licensing being accessible.

“I’ve been advocating for the MRTA, even before I started 4Fathers,” said Litteer, who has been involved with the Rochester chapter NORML, an group that lobbied to reform cannabis laws and encourage education about cannabis. “So, I thought it was extremely important that we get the get the word out and make sure that people are educated properly so they can make the decision. It really just came down to — I thought we were going to have to leave the community because, you know, if they opted out — once recreational adult use came in, we weren’t going to be able to survive by just doing CBD.”

The village board chose Dec. 21, 2021, to opt out of the state’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, or MRTA, which became law in March 2021. Municipalities across the state had until Dec. 31, 2021, to make a decision; if they made no decision, the municipality would automatically be opted-in to the state law, which would allow retail locations and on-site consumption.

Municipalities that opted out are able to opt in at a later date.

Dansville’s decision to opt out opened a window in which residents could gather signatures and kick off a permissive referendum that could overturn the municipality’s decision.

Municipalities still have the power to make decisions about zoning and other matters in regards to opting in and by opting in, the community now has options they did not have before.

“When I was growing up, with how draconian all the laws were,I thought that I was gonna be an old man before I’d have an opportunity to do something like this,” said Litteer. “I believe when opportunity knocks you gotta kick the door down.”

Municipalities may only opt out of on-site user locations and dispensaries. They cannot opt out of allowing individuals to use marijuana as the possession and use of cannabis will remain legal across the state.

Of the 26 municipalities in Livingston County, 19 have opted in and six municipalities have opted out, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government’s Marijuana Opt-Out Tracker.

In Livingston County, municipalities that have opted in to both allowing dispensaries and allowing consumption on site are: Town and Village of Avon, Town and Village of Caledonia, Village of Dansville, Town of Groveland, Town and Village of Leicester, Town and Village of Lima, Town and Village of Livonia, Town and Village of Mount Morris, Town of Nunda, Town of Portage, Town of Sparta, Town of West Sparta and Town of York.

Municipalities that have opted out and will not allow dispensaries and consumption sites are Town of Conesus, Town and Village of Geneseo, Town of North Dansville, Village of Nunda, and Town of Ossian.

The Town of Springwater did not make a formal decision, which would automatically opt the town into the law, though the town’s status had not been confirmed by the Marijuana Tracker as of Feb. 21.

The Village of Nunda Board opted out on July 12, and then a referendum on Sept. 7 affirmed the opt-out decision.

A municipality can opt in after initially opting out but cannot opt out after opting in to the law. However, opting in does not guarantee the municipality a dispensary or retail site either. It just makes it possible for the town or village to have them in the future and to receive a portion of tax revenue from marijuana sales.

The state has indicated that marijuana sales will be taxed at about 13% with roughly 9% going to the state and 4% being allocated at the local level. Of that 4%, municipalities will receive 75% based on their adult-use marijuana sales, and counties will receive the remaining 25%.

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