Barre sets Oct. 4 hearing to opt in or out for marijuana dispensaries

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2021 at 9:21 am

BARRE – The community can share its views with the Barre Town Board during a hearing on Oct. 4 on whether Barre should allow legal marijuana dispensaries. That hearing will be 5 p.m. at the Town Hall, 14317 West Barre Rd.

Towns and villages around the state can either “opt in” or “opt out” of allowing the dispensaries, where people could purchase adult-use cannabis products.

The state has given the municipalities until Dec. 31 to make a decision. If the municipal boards don’t vote on the issue, they are considered by the state to be opting in and allowing the dispensaries, said Sean Pogue, the Barre town supervisor.

Towns and villages can opt out by Dec. 31 and then vote again in the future to opt in. That is the direction Pogue wants to see Barre take. He cited a lot of uncertainty and unknowns with the state’s new marijuana laws.

“I would feel better to opt out now,” he told the other board members during Wednesday’s monthly regular meeting. “This is so new. It’s in its infancy and there has been nothing from Albany on specific regulations.”

Municipalities also need to decide by the end of the year if they will opt out of allowing onsite consumption at businesses such as a smoking lounge.

The state has approved a 13-percent excise tax on marijuana with a breakdown that includes 9 cents for each taxable sale to the state, 3 cents to the municipality that has the dispensary, and 1 cent to the county. Municipalities that opt out wouldn’t be eligible for the 3-cent share of the 13-percent sales tax.

Towns and villages can’t overstep the state and ban recreational use of marijuana. But the towns and villages can prohibit dispensaries and smoking lounges.

If the municipal board for a village or town decides to opt out, residents could still push a permissive referendum, with the matter going on the ballot. They would need to turn in a petition by at least 10 percent of qualified voters within 45 days of the Town Board’s decision to force a public vote.