LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — There’s those who say marijuana is a guaranteed booming business, which has entrepreneurs and Capital Region communities alike ready to get the jump on rapidly approaching recreational sales.
“You could put a marijuana dispensary in the middle of nowhere and people would still go. They are going to find you no matter what,” says Robin Barkenhagen, co-owner of the Glens Fall’s head shop, 42°. “It’s not like where say, you want to open a pet store and need to be in a pets-friendly environment. This is a very unique industry.”
However, as New York State’s December 31 deadline approaches to opt in or out, Valley Falls, Bolton Landing, and now both the Town and Village of Lake George say “no thanks”. The village board of trustees cast their unanimous votes Monday saying no to both recreational sales and on-site marijuana use.
“Obviously, you can still come into the village and you’re going to be able to smoke it just like a cigarette. It’s legal, so you can do it. What we’ve prohibited obviously, was the sale of it from a dispensary in the village and also the consumption on site. That means you can’t open a place where you can smoke it,” Mayor Bob Blais explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Leaders say community members who attended public meetings claimed increased marijuana usage is to blame for recent property damage and unwelcome pollution in local parks.
“We’re a small community and your neighbors aren’t afraid to tell you their opinion, so based on the fact that I think almost all of them told me that they were against it, I made my decision with them in mind,” says Trustee Ray Perry.
“They remarked that with the increased consumption and the legality of [marijuana], they’ve had all kinds of problems at resorts with patrons consuming it and doing damage to the rooms. There was a great fear that it might increase our activity with police presence. We don’t have a police department in Lake George. We depend upon the sheriff,” Mayor Blais explains.
“It was the question of whether or not they were going to be lounges or if they were going to be dispensaries where a person takes out and goes to a park or to the sidewalk. I think it’s a lot of that, as well as the unknowns. There are complaints. It’s a family community. We strive to be safe and welcoming to families,” Perry goes on to say.
Barkenhagen says he’s looking to open a dispensary and adds he frankly feels sorry for Lake George and any community that opts out. “You’re turning down free money, and just because you opt-in doesn’t mean you get a dispensary. To me, it’s incredibly short-sighted of any lawmakers to cut their own constituents out of a potential cash cow,” he says.
Barkenhagen says as surrounding communities like his commit to opt-in and business flows elsewhere, opt-out communities could miss out on the revenue. “Considering the tourism aspect, Lake George would seem to be a perfect spot for one, but if there was and there was one in Glens Falls, we might have the same problems we have all summer long where everyone is going to Lake George and Glens Falls has trouble bringing people in. So as a business owner in Glens Falls, there is a benefit for us, but I do feel sorry for the people of Lake George,” he says.
However, both Blais and Perry say the Lake George trustees were not swayed by the potential for a 4% sales tax, with 75% of that revenue going directly to the village. “We do fairly well in Lake George,” says Mayor Blais. “The money didn’t come into the decision at all.”
“It doesn’t show much potential. Whereas if we wait and see what other communities face for pitfalls and struggles, trials, tribulations, then we could learn from their mistakes and potentially opt-in at a later date,” adds Perry.