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Plattsburgh Councilors Welcome Potential Medical Marijuana Businesses

WAMC/Pat Bradley

New York may be relatively late to the medical marijuana game, but city councilors in Plattsburgh are trying to get ahead when it comes to the nascent industry. As WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports, the city council passed a resolution last night supporting medical marijuana businesses in the city.
The state health department is still finalizingregulationsafter New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act in July, legalizing medical marijuana. But there will be at the outset only 20 dispensing facilities allowed across the state. Groups that want to manufacture and dispense the product must apply to the Department of Health. If approved, registration is valid for two years. There will be 20 dispensaries statewide.

The Department of Health will allow up to five organizations operate up to four facilities to grow, manufacture, distribute and dispense marijuana for medical use.  Plattsburgh Ward Six Democrat Joshua Kretser drafted a lengthy resolution that welcomes any such approved organization to operate within the city.  “I drafted this resolution just to say that the city of Plattsburgh recognizes the medicinal benefits of medical marijuana and also that we would welcome any of these licensed organizations to come to the city of Plattsburgh to set up shop. Be it with growing, processing and also dispensaries so they can take advantage of our low electricity rates and we can take advantage of a lot of tax revenue and also the creation of probably upwards of 40 or 50 living wage  jobs in the city.”

The resolution passed unanimously. Ward Four Democrat Paul O’Connell retired from the NYS Department of Corrections as a substance abuse counselor. He says the economics of medical marijuana are not his concern.  “If it’s going to help some people with their health conditions all the better for us.  And if we can be here and make it more accessible for them then I think it’s a plus for everybody in our area.”

While Ward Three Republican Dale Dowdle supports the city resolution, he has concerns about limitations in the state law.  “My concern is for the people who would use it. There is a seven year sunset. What if you become a recipient and suddenly it all ends? Then what happens? Are you without this medication, because it is being called a medication? That’s my concern for the individuals using it. And it’s a cash only business. What’s New York State going to do? How do you subtract Social Security and things like that out of a paycheck that doesn’t have a bank’s backing? So we’re very restrictive. I think it’s going to have to expand.”

Medical marijuana in New York cannot be smoked. Alternative methods such as vaporization, oils, pills, and consumables must be used.
Plattsburgh Independent Mayor James Calnon says medical marijuana is like any other pharmaceutical product.  “If Pzifer was here telling us they were going to make Oxycodone, a controlled substance that has some medicinal purposes, there probably wouldn’t be any interest.  This is very much the same thing. We’re not talking about recreational marijuana. We’re not talking about smoking. We’re not talking about brownies. We’re really talking about the production of medicine. It’s a controlled substance. There are benefits if used properly. And I think the Council really wanted to make an expression that there are no barriers to being here and there’s some really good reasons to locate.”

Kretser admits that part of the strategy is to position Plattsburgh for placement as a dispensary site.  “I wanted to be a little pro-active since this is the time when companies are going to be applying to be licensed by New York State and the New York State Department of Health.  And since there would only be probably 20 dispensaries spread throughout New York State, the city of Plattsburgh and Clinton County would benefit not only from the tax revenue from the growing and the processing of the medical marijuana but in addition they’d be able to benefit from the tax revenue from the dispensing of marijuana.”

Mayor Calnon reports that at least one group interested in applying to the state has met with local officials and law enforcement to discuss plans and security measures.

Draft regulations are out and will soon be finalized. Approvals are to be in place by January 1, 2016.

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