BY Molly Congdon
Medical marijuana will go on sale next year in New York. The question is: Where?
Clifton Park residents young and old flocked to a public hearing on May 18 at Town Hall, where the discussion revolved around the issue of a potential medical marijuana dispensary setting up shop in Clifton Park and how it would fit within the town’s zoning codes.
Town Supervisor Phil Barrett took the floor first. He referred back to the May 4 Town Board meeting, when Douglas Butdorf, president of North Country Roots — a start-up company hoping to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Clifton Park — presented its plan to the town.
“During the presentation, Mr. Butdorf mentioned that as long as they follow New York state guidelines — which basically says you have to be in a business zone in a municipality and you cannot be within a 1,000 feet of a church or school — as long as they follow those guidelines, it doesn’t matter what a local municipality has to say,” Barrett said.
“My question to that is: What makes a medical marijuana business different from any other business? Every other business that chooses to invest in the town of Clifton Park is allowed to build or move into an area that is zoned for their type of business. Why would a medical marijuana dispensary be any different? Why would a medical marijuana dispensary be able to locate in any business zones in the town of Clifton Park when there isn’t a business out there that has that luxury?”
He continued: “The whole point that he’s trying to make that municipal zoning codes do not apply, I think is absolutely incorrect and I dismiss it out of hand.”
Then he touched on the potential for economic growth, which Butdorf and his colleagues had discussed. “The whole sales pitch that there’s funds that a government can make from taxing the sale of marijuana is substantial, is not an argument that moves me,” Barrett said. “I think any society that is going to depend on casinos and pot to pay its bills isn’t looking in the right place for economic development.”
Then the floor was opened to the public and a few individuals stepped up to the podium to voice their opinions on the matter.
It was a smaller crowd than on May 4, but the seats were full, and a range of opinions were expressed.
“I struggle with this proposal because I don’t want to deny patients with chronic conditions and symptoms. . . . In my mind logic follows that when you need medicine you go to the pharmacy; and it seems logical to dispense medical marijuana at a pharmacy that patients are most likely already visiting — it would be a terrible inconvenience for people to have to go to yet other location to pick up their drugs,” Clifton Knolls resident Mary Blaauboer said. “Proper means to dispense are already in place. I suggest and implore our town leaders to reach out to state lawmakers and advocate for appropriate changes to the law.”
She continued: “If it’s not treated as medicine at the pharmacy, what message are we sending? What comes next? We don’t want us to be standing at another candlelight vigil as a consequence.”
Clifton Park resident Jim Baisley was the next to take the microphone. “If it’s going to happen, we need to find a place and zone it where they have these and the number,” he said. “We definitely need to zone some place so it doesn’t grow in the future as the law changes and they will keep adding and adding. . . . I’d like to not see it happen at all.”
Some are ready to embrace the change. “Some people don’t conform to conventional kind of therapies,” Tom Charbonneau said. “I have a sister with an autistic son who has lots of seizures; if this can help, I’m all for it. I’d say give them a shot.”
The representatives of North Country Roots were unable to make the meeting; however, Butdorf did submit a letter attempting to lessen the fears of skeptical residents.
New York state will choose five licensees, each of whom will be allowed four locations throughout the state to sell medical marijuana — a total of 20 altogether.
The town of Clifton Park will proceed with public process, and most likely will reach a decision on the zoning regulations in June.
The next meeting will take place June 1 at the Town Hall.