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Legal marijuana dispensaries: Who's in and who's out

On. Dec. 28, members of the Waverly Board of Trustees voted 4-3 to opt out of allowing marijuana dispensaries to set up shop within the village, and subsequently and unanimously voted to let the residents ultimately make that decision on March 15 at the polls.

While the issue has become a hot topic in the village, Waverly is not the only municipality that had to make that decision by the state-imposed deadline of Dec. 31.

Under state law, municipalities had until that date to “opt out” of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) — the legislation that legalized recreational marijuana in New York. Opting out would not keep cannabis illegal in those municipalities; it would only bar licensed businesses from setting up shop within their borders.

Namely, those businesses are marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities — the latter of which is known as “cannabis cafes,” — which would essentially operate for marijuana as bars do for consuming alcohol.

However, municipalities that opt out will not receive any portion of the tax revenue that would stand to be gained from the dispensaries and cafes.

In New York, the state will tax marijuana sales at 9 percent, the county where the business is located would get a 1 percent tax share, and the municipality where it is located would get a 3 percent tax share. However, if the municipality is a village, for example, they would have to divide that 3 percent with the town in which they are located.

According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, which has compiled a database of New York municipalities that have opted out, these are the municipalities in Tioga and Chemung counties that did not pass an opt out law and as such are ALLOWING marijuana dispensaries and cannabis cafes:

  • Town of Berkshire
  • Town of Candor
  • Village of Candor
  • Village of Newark Valley (dispensaries only)
  • Town of Nichols
  • Village of Owego
  • City of Elmira
  • Town and Village of Horseheads (dispensaries only)
  • Village of Wellsburg (dispensaries only)

According to the database, municipalities in Tioga and Chemung counties that did pass opt out laws are:

  • Town of Barton
  • Town of Newark Valley
  • Village of Nichols
  • Town of Owego
  • Town of Richford
  • Town of Spencer
  • Village of Spencer
  • Town of Tioga
  • Town of Ashland
  • Town of Baldwin
  • Town of Big Flats
  • Town of Catlin
  • Town of Chemung
  • Town of Elmira
  • Village of Elmira Heights
  • Town of Erin
  • Town of Southport
  • Town of Van Etten
  • Town of Veteran.

Nichols Village Mayor Lesley Pelotte explained that the village board decided to opt out because “it’s not worth the 3 percent tax.”

“We don’t have any zoning in the village,” she said. “One of these dispensaries could set up next to pretty much anything if we allowed it, and we just didn’t want that.”

Pelotte added that the board vote was unanimous.

“We did have the discussion, and some of our board members were pretty adamant about opting out,” she said. “Ultimately, we just decided that it wasn’t worth it. We’re a very small village and without zoning, we wouldn’t have control over it.”

According to Nichols Town Clerk Karen Hall, the town board mutually decided to let the deadline pass without legislating an opt out law.

“With zoning, the only area a business would legally be able to set up is out near the Lounsberry Truck Stop area,” she said. “There is a part of the law that allows people to grow it at home, but if they were to sell it from their home, they’d at least need a local variance.”

Hall noted that since the town relies on the Tioga County Sheriff’s Office and state police, enforcement would be an issue as well.

Commissioners approve new ARPA funds, disaster relief measures

The Bradford County Commissioners accepted a new round of American Rescue Plan Act funds for upcoming projects Thursday while continuing to establish their disaster relief plan.

Commissioners Doug McLinko and John Sullivan approved two ARPA grants that were part of the last round of COVID money from the federal government.

One was a $48,000 grant for a new fence around Third Ward Park in Towanda and the other was a $500,000 for the Valley Joint Sewer Authority for a sewer treatment plant project that will involve replacing equipment that pulls out non-biodegradable items from the sewer system.

“The nice part about the Valley is that it helps the taxpayers to alleviate because it’s all four municipalities in the Valley,” said McLinko. “We are happy that we can help.”

Commissioner Chairman Daryl Miller was not present due to his trip to Washington, D.C. to attend a meeting of the National Association of County Organizations where he represented Bradford County.

For emergency management measures, authority was given to Bradford Coutny Chief Clerk Michelle Shedden to seek financial assistance for New Albany Borough, Rome Borough and Wysox Township via the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which helps with disaster relief.

FEMA recommended that the county apply for federal funds to help finance their Hazard Mitigation Plan, which was made effective at the meeting.

Bradford County Director of Public Safety Matt Williams was also given similar authority for the entire county on behalf of the commissioners.

The county’s current plan has $105,000 of funding that was approved last year. Next month, officials will start to develop the plan and look to eventually hire an emergency management consultant to help in the development, said Shedden.

The next commissioners meeting has been changed to 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. in the commissioners conference room instead of Thursday, Jan. 27.

Survivors sexually abused as adults want chance to sue in NY

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New Yorkers who were sexually abused as adults could sue abusers in civil court under a bill that supporters are again urging the state to pass.

The Adult Survivors Act would provide a one-year litigation window for those individuals to launch lawsuits even if the statute of limitations has passed. Under existing state law, survivors must file a claim within five years of the abuse.

The state Senate is on track to vote on the bill again this year: the Senate Finance Committee passed the Adult Survivors Act out of committee Tuesday. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office didn’t immediately provide comment Thursday.

Supporters, including survivors of sexual abuse, have long questioned why the law has yet to pass in New York, which passed a similar 2019 law for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Supporters include some of more than 200 women who say they were sexually assaulted by former New York gynecologist Robert A. Hadden.

Hadden, 63, was indicted in September 2020 on federal charges of sexually abusing patients over nearly two decades. He pleaded not guilty.

Lawyer Gloria Allred, who’s long represented victims of sexual misconduct, said survivors have “already waited long enough.”

“Every survivor deserves a pathway to justice in the courts no matter how old they were or how long ago it happened,” she said. “But across the nation, restrictive statutes of limitation routinely bar victims from justice. The Adult Survivors Act will give New York survivors the opportunity to hold individuals and institutions accountable and finally put them on notice, that protecting themselves over sexual assault victims is not an option.”

The Adult Survivors Act unanimously passed the Senate last summer, but it has languished in the Assembly. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat, had expressed doubt about the need for the law, though a spokesperson later said she supports it.

Safe Horizon CEO Liz Roberts, whose nonprofit helps victims of violence, called for New York to pass the bill and said research shows it can take time for survivors to come forward.

“Trauma takes time – and it’s about time our justice system caught up,” Roberts said.

Athens Borough issues snow emergency ahead of storm

ATHENS BOROUGH — Athens Mayor Francis “Skip” Roupp has issued a snow emergency for the borough starting at 8 p.m. on Sunday until 8 p.m. Monday.

Roupp requests that all residents remove all vehicles that are parked on all borough streets.

“During any snowfall where the snow remains on the street that requires it to be plowed and the mayor declares a snow emergency, it shall be unlawful at any time for any reason to park a motor vehicle or to allow a motor vehicle to remain parked anywhere on any street that hinders the removal of snow, he stated. Said prohibition shall apply to all streets of the borough,” according to a press release from the borough.

Travel on roadways within Athens Borough during a snow emergency is also restricted.