A group of residents seek to reverse Catskill’s rejection of potty parlors

CITY OF CATSKILL — A group of residents is seeking to overturn a city council decision banning marijuana parlors in the community.

The city council voted 3 to 1 on December 29 to refuse to allow salons, while voting against removing dispensaries. Pot parlors and dispensaries are allowed by default unless communities reject them. But residents can vote directly on licensing marijuana facilities if enough signatures are collected to call for a referendum, allowing communities to overrule their municipal governments.

A dozen city residents have hit the sidewalk in recent days to collect enough signatures to force the referendum before the state cuts on Feb. 15, knocking on doors and showing up in parking lots for drive-thru signatures . Tuesday evening, there were still signatures to collect.

Sara Pickens Verdon, who is organizing the effort, made a financial case for the fairs, saying they would add to the local economy, and that it was important to show potential investors that the city was “completely ready to go – that we all are – come in and open our doors to what may happen.”

The Verdon considers trade fairs to be a plus for the city.

“It’s more than revenue (from cannabis), it’s about bringing people to our commercial areas all around town… Catskill has a lot to offer – we’re not trying to be a destination for cafes or dispensaries, but we try to add another side to the city,” she said.

Owner of Social Sara, a company that helps small businesses in the area expand their social media presence, Verdon sees the salons working in synergy with other Catskill businesses.

Allowing lobbies would also have at least some impact on city coffers. A 13% tax is imposed on all cannabis sales, of which 9% goes to the state, 1% to the county where the sale was made, and the remaining 3% to the city where the sale was made.

Greene County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Friedman said salons would be a source of revenue for communities that allow them.

“Legalized cannabis is state law, and we’re not changing that, and whether your city agrees or not, members of your community will continue to use (cannabis),” he said.

Of the 19 municipalities in Greene County, 13 have chosen not to allow salons, while 11 have chosen not to allow salons and dispensaries, including several mountaintop destinations. City leaders pointed to the state’s lack of guidance — the state’s Cannabis Control Board has yet to issue regulations — with some saying they fear the social or public health impacts of the drug.

In an interview with The Times Union, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden called the economic case for salons “crazy,” saying cities should be able to balance their budgets without resorting to taxation of a product he considered harmful to the county’s health.

Friedman said he understands some municipalities want to “make a moral statement and not necessarily be part of it.”

“If they think this law will create challenges for them, say more ambulance calls or mental health issues or something where they might need more resources… then membership, at least, gives you access to tax revenue, which can help offset any potential costs,” he said.

Verdon and his group must obtain the signatures of 20% of registered voters in the city by February 15 to force the referendum, which will appear on the November ballot. That’s 426 signatures, according to Catskill Democratic Committee Chair Margaret Tomlinson. Just under 300 signatures had been collected Tuesday at 4 p.m., according to the Verdon.

If enough signatures are collected and the referendum passes, the Town of Catskill will join the six other municipalities in Greene County that have chosen to allow living rooms, including the Village of Catskill, which sits in the center of the town. .

In addition to allowing lounges by referendum, municipalities that have opted out of allowing cannabis cafes can come back at any time with a vote by city council.

Friedman said he thinks the number of communities in Greene County allowing living rooms will only increase.

“My feeling is this: at some point, there won’t be many towns or county municipalities that will be excluded,” he said.

Cities that have opted out will have the opportunity to see how trade shows work elsewhere, Friedman said.

“They’ll see that this isn’t drug heaven, and there aren’t people high and passed out all over town, and ambulances aren’t running down Main Street 24/7. 7 days, and they’ll say – oh, that’s not what we thought it was – and they’ll agree,” he said.

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