Corning City Council OKs marijuana dispensaries, but opts out of consumption sites

Jeff Smith
The Leader

The Corning City Council voted 4-3 Monday night to opt-in on allowing marijuana dispensaries, but unanimously voted to opt-out of allowing on-site consumption lounge sites within the city. 

New York signed legislation earlier this year legalizing cannabis consumption for adults 21 and over wherever tobacco products can be used, with the exception of driving a vehicle. The law also gave local municipalities the option to opt-out of allowing dispensaries and consumption sites. 

Once a municipality gives the OK, the policy is permanent, but by opting out they can revisit the policy and change their decision. The deadline to opt-out is Dec. 31.

It's expected dispensaries won't open in the state until the latter half of 2022, at the earliest.

“First is the recognition that people who are currently taking cannabis are doing it buying illegally on the black market,” Mayor Bill Boland said. “More importantly, in doing so they are taking risks that it may contain other potentially dangerous substances.”  

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Boland said from that standpoint, the decision is a matter of public health to allow the sale of the drug through licensed dispensaries. 

“This would eliminate that risk,” Boland said. “From that standpoint, I conclude the sooner we do it the better.” 

Councilman Alison Hunt, R-8, voted against permitting dispensaries in the city.

“It’s scary to me that there is so limited information from New York State available,” Hunt said. “I need more information before I vote for this for our community. We don’t know anything because New York State won't give any answers. That is a huge concern.” 

Councilman Marshall Hyde, D-4, said there are 128 pages of legislation and another 48 pages of regulations issued by the Cannabis Board. 

“So, people that say there isn’t enough information out there? There is a lot of information out there,” Hyde said. "You want to know what licenses cost, regulations say it's $300 for a retail establishment.” 

Hyde pointed to the safety of cannabis supply and getting it out of the hands of the black market.

“It’s under our noses,” Hyde said. “We can sort of keep an eye on things. I’m confident (the state) will give us pretty good rules.” 

Councilman Mark ReSue, I-7, said he feels allowing adult-use marijuana dispensaries before the state rules are defined is like putting the “cart before the horse.” 

“It’s just another effort by New York State to govern unethically without logic,” ReSue said. “We are asking our local municipalities, our local governments, to act on something before putting out the set guidelines and regulations. That is why I voted against the proposal.” 

Boland, Hyde, and councilmen Diane Telehaney, D-1, and Kate Paterson, D-2, voted to opt-in on allowing dispensaries. Hunt, ReSue and Councilman Frank Muccini, R-5, voted against the motion. 

"That was a bad move," Muccini said seconds after the vote was tallied. 

The full council voted unanimously, 7-0, against opting-in on the on-site-consumption lounges.

“As much as I was in favor of dispensaries, I think lounges at this time fall under that category as we just don’t know enough about the regulation, and for our community at this time, it’s just a step too far,” Boland said. “I accept the fact that in the future the city can opt-in as we gain more information about (on-site-consumption lounge) regulations and also that our community adopts itself to this reality of cannabis being legal.”