PORTVILLE — The Portville Village Board discussed the opt-out decision for marijuana dispensaries and/or consumption sites that every municipality in New York state is considering.
“I want us to go into this with our eyes wide open,” Mayor Anthony Evans said. “The way this has been rolled out has been very difficult. … I’d like to make an informed decision. There will be time for public comment.”
Jon Chaffee, a Reality Check coordinator, gave a presentation to board members and a few residents. He also provided handouts which spelled out the state’s recreational cannabis legislation that was signed into law by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March.
Chaffee pointed out to the board that there were actually three decisions to make by Dec. 31. A municipality can opt out of permitting both dispensaries and consumption sites, it can allow permitted dispensaries — places where legal recreational marijuana may be sold — and not consumption sites or it can allow consumption sites but not dispensaries.
A question from board member Vincent Pascucci addressed a law enforcement issue of driving while impaired. Unlike alcohol that can be tested by a blood draw, traces of marijuana can stay in a person’s system for up to 30 days, making it difficult for police officers to test.
Chaffee explained that it takes very extensive training to become a drug recognition expert, of which Cattaraugus County has only two, and most police departments across the state don’t have the resources to train more. He also pointed out that there is a law on the books about driving while impaired by drugs.
Joseph McLarney questioned the revenue that would be generated for the village, and Chaffee said that the percentage the village of Portville would obtain would be minimal compared to counties or larger municipalities.
Pascucci pointed out that since marijuana use is legal, it is no different than drinking at a bar. He raised the question of residents pushing for a vote on the issue.
Evans said he had talked to a legal adviser of the State Senate in Albany and was told that 10% of registered voters would be needed to petition the village board for a vote. Evans also had a call in to the Cattaraugus County Board of Elections as to what that exact number would be.
“We’re at the beginning of the process,” Evans said. “Go to the websites. Go learn. Let’s make an informed decision. Our next meeting is Nov. 15 (at 6 p.m.) so we do have time. There will be no executive session on this issue. We’re leaders — let’s do it.”
IN OTHER NEWS, Cattaraugus County Legislator Kip Morrow spoke about the state’s efforts to bring broadband internet to all areas, and that Cattaraugus County, and specifically Portville, is first in line.
Bob Fischer, vice chair of the ad hoc Village Code Review and Revision Committee, reported that work continues on the outdated village codes. A meeting was held with General Codes and they are being transcribed to a Microsoft Word document for dissemination to the committee for tweaking.
The village will invite Rich Longer, president of the Twin Tiers Disc Golf Club, to discuss their request that a mini disc golf course be brought to Pioneer Park or another site in the village.
The village will soon request sealed bids for the purchase of the village-owned property on Pine Street, and that the auction on the property on Wellington Drive is on hold pending improvements.
Finally, Christmas in the Park will be held on an abbreviated scale on Nov. 25, with the tree lighting at 5 p.m. There will be a home/yard decorating contest and letters to Santa Claus may be mailed from a special box at the Portville post office.