Massena village officials eyeing illegal pot shops
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
MASSENA — Massena Village officials say they have reached out to the State Office of Cannabis Management regarding multiple illegal marijuana dispensaries in and around the village.
According to Mayor Greg Paquin, local authorities have been aware of the illegal operations since they opened but have received zero guidance or support from state officials.During the village board’s March 20 meeting, Paquin sought to address the situation.
“We have called, we have emailed and have yet to hear anything back from them,” he said.
Though adult use marijuana is now legal in New York, dispensaries are required to apply for a state license to operate. To date, no licenses have been issued to businesses in Massena.
The predicament is one that has been ongoing for months after businesses were established in the long disputed “Massena Square Mile”, a tract of land that the St. Regis Mohawk tribe have laid claim to.
A dispensary opened last fall under the guise of selling stickers with a monetary value equivalent to a specific amount of marijuana that would be gifted to the purchaser.
Paquin was critical of state officials for their lack of action, while also taking time to address the illegal operations.
“Make no mistake about it, cannabis is legal and we have no problem with legal dispensaries. But these people are acting outside the law and what they are doing is illegal,” he said.
Law enforcement have also been left in the lurch and have yet to receive guidance from state officials about how to proceed.
The news comes just as Governor Kathy Hochul announced efforts to crack down on illicit operations, with potential fines up to and in excess of $10,000 per day for unlawful activities.
The governor has proposed new legislation to increase civil and tax penalties against such operations. The legislation would also enable the Office of Cannabis Management and Department of Taxation and Finance to enforce “new regulatory requirements and close stores engaged in the illegal sale of cannabis.”
The new legislation will be introduced as a Governor’s program bill in the Senate and Assembly, amending tax and cannabis law to allow for better enforcement, state officials say.