Great Neck Estates opts out of retail cannabis sales

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Great Neck Estates opts out of retail cannabis sales
The Village of Great Neck Estates Board of Trustees unanimously voted to opt out of permitting recreational cannabis sales throughout the village on Monday. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The Village of Great Neck Estates continued a trend of opting out of cannabis sales on the North Shore at Monday night’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Mayor William Warner said he believes it would be prudent to opt out of the law and to wait and see how the sale of recreational cannabis plays out on Long Island and the rest of the state.

“Since we don’t know the amount [of sales tax revenue] the village would receive from cannabis sales – but my feeling is it’ll be negligible – it’s worth opting out to find out how this all plays out.”

Under a new state law, consumption and smoking of cannabis is legal throughout the state wherever smoking tobacco is legal, though the Nassau County Legislature recently banned cannabis smoking and vaping on all county-owned property. Municipalities can opt out of allowing retail sale of cannabis by Dec. 31, but they will not get to share in any generated local tax revenue.

Warner said that the village can always opt into the law, but has until  Dec. 31 to decide to opt out. Once a village has opted in, it cannot opt back out, according to the law. The trustees ultimately unanimously voted to opt out of the law.

Warner also cited the accessibility of marijuana to children if the board chose to opt in as a reason not to do so. 

“The idea of having marijuana available in stores and consumption centers so close to our residents is something that I’m not interested in,” Warner said. 

Great Neck Estates chose the same path as Flower Hill, Floral Park, New Hyde Park and Williston Park, which also opted out of permitting retail cannabis stores and consumption sites in their villages.

Great Neck Estates Deputy Mayor Jeff Farkas also brought up a point that if another municipality was in close proximity to Great Neck Estates, people in the village would be able to walk into a dispensary or consumption store.

Nikki Kateman, the political and communications director for Local 338 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, representing workers in the cannabis industry, spoke on that point at the Village of Flower Hill’s Aug. 3 meeting.

“People are going to be purchasing cannabis products, but they’re going to be doing that in other jurisdictions who will then be collecting that tax revenue,” Kateman said. “Opt-out means in a lot of ways opting out of revenue.”

The opt out may not be permanent, however. Residents can petition the outcome of the recent vote, which if successful triggers a process that places the law on the ballot at the next state or local election.

Michelle Fields, cannabis attorney and member of the New York Cannabis Association for New York City, spoke on the financial benefits for villages that choose to opt into the initiative at a Williston Park meeting in July.

“This is a $40 billion industry and New York state is going to have the largest marketplace in the nation, and talking about multiple weed consumption lounges with a license and dispensaries, that’s significant revenue, especially when you have such a high demand,” Fields said.

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