Massena village officials seek public input on zoning law for cannabis businesses
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
MASSENA — Retail cannabis dispensaries are slated to receive licenses in the near future and village trustees want to take action to address village code and regulations for the businesses.
A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 17 at 5:31 p.m. for village residents to offer feedback about potential regulations for such businesses in the village.Village officials passed regulations last year to govern legal cannabis shops in the village, an effort led by Code Enforcement Officer Aaron Hardy.
hardy said the regulations will allow the village to limit where such businesses can be placed throughout the village, reining in where the businesses can be placed.
Dispensaries and growing facilities will only be allowed in the Central Business District, Commercial Transition District and Commercial Auto-Related District.
Restrictions prevent such operations from operating in a number of areas in residential zones. A number of streets will specifically be off limits, including Andrews Street, East and West Orvis Street, Main Street, Water Street, Glenn Street, Phillips Street and a handful of others.
Outdoor grow sites are also illegal in the village, with cultivation facilities required to strictly grow indoors.
Those regulations came after months of illicit shops selling cannabis within the village and the “square mile” that is still being contested by the St. Regis Mohawk tribe.
Village officials have been vocal about such shops, with Mayor Greg Paquin calling on the state to take action.
“I’m well aware that there are shops that are illegally open right now and make no mistake, they are illegally open,” Mayor Greg Paquin previously said.
State officials, who have not offered guidance to village officials, have yet to take direct action to close illicit shops in the village.
State lawmakers did pass regulations that gives the Office of Cannabis Manage and Department of Taxation more teeth to combat the businesses.
Those enhanced powers came from language codified into law through the state budget bill earlier this summer.
Civil and tax penalties for illicit sales have been added and expanded in an effort to deter such operations, officials say.
Under the terms of the new laws, state officials can conduct inspections, seize untested products, obtain court orders to close such businesses and evict commercial tenants who are breaking state and local laws.
Fines can rise to $20,000 per day, per operation, state officials say.
St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Deputies, in conjunction with multiple law enforcement agencies throughout the county, did raid a number of illegal and unlicensed dispensaries on June 29, saying the operations were selling to minors and also sold other, illicit drugs that remain illegal in the state.
St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brooks Bigwarfe said the goal was not to eradicate marijuana use in the county, but rather stop the sale of illegal substances and drugs to minors.
”Illegal substances are in some of these products being sold in these establishments with no oversight. It will continue to endanger the citizens of St. Lawrence County and surrounding counties,” he said following the raids.
Two shops in Massena were impacted by the operation, including Famous A’s on Center St. and THC Remedies on Beach St.
Seized at Famous A’s were 42 pounds of cannabis, 5,707 grams of concentrated cannabis, 767 flavored nicotine vapes and $1616 US currency.
At THC Remedies, police seized 13.8 pounds of cannabis, 857 grams of concentrated cannabis and 114 flavored nicotine vapes. Also $3,161 in US currency.