Potsdam plaza near Walmart could house marijuana dispensary
BY ADAM ATKINSON
North Country This Week
POTSDAM — A state authority is interested in setting up the former Olympia Sports store off Route 11 as a marijuana dispensary to be run by a cannabis business licensee.
The attention has town officials moving quickly to draft a new code to manage the local permitting process for legal pot shops.At the town board meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10, Town Supervisor Ann Carvill told board members that the town code enforcement officer, Jeff Murray, had received a letter from an architect working for the Dormitory Authority State of New York (DASNY), expressing interest in setting up the site, located in the Tractor Supply plaza, across the highway from Walmart, as dispensary.
The architect asks if there are any municipal zoning steps taken or meetings required with the Potsdam town planning board, Carvill read from the letter. In the letter, the DASNY representative said the size of the store would not change and the maximum occupancy would be less than 50 people.
“We’re not alone in thinking that New York State has kind of gotten ahead of local municipalities in keeping us apprised of where we should be,” Carvill told the board. “At this point, it looks like we need a law.”
“And the law, to our understanding at this point, simply states that for someone requesting a dispensary that it would have to go… that it would have to be on a case by case basis, it goes to the planning board and then it would come to us for discussion,” she said.
DASNY, a “public benefit corporation” of the state, provides design and project management services, and issues bonds, notes and other obligations, for a wide variety of public purposes. The authority, and its subsidiary the Social Equity Servicing Corporation (SESC), was recently charged with providing agency services, design, construction and other services to the state’s Cannabis Control Board, Office of Cannabis Management, and the New York Social Equity Cannabis Investment Fund. The Fund, a $200 million fund established by Gov. Hochul in her budget in March 2022, provides start-up cash, other financial assistance, and support to “equity entrepreneurs at the forefront of the adult-use cannabis market.”
The Fund establishes conditional adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries and then offers them, in a sublease arrangement, to those chosen to hold Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) Licenses.
CAURD licenses are the first cannabis licenses being issued by New York State. To be eligible, at least 30 percent of the business must be owned by an individual previously convicted of a marijuana offense before March 31, 2021 and who has qualifying business experience.
This last part seems to be raising some eyebrows at the town level.
“The state also is selecting sites, like they have here with this, where they will permit it,” Carvill said. “Apparently… there is going to be a lottery of former inmates who were put in prison for pot use. There is going to be a lottery and one of them will be selected to run this business. They will have 10 years to pay back the money that the state spent setting it up.”
“We need to get a law in order, because its starting,” the supervisor said.
According to DASNY, if a CAURD licensee does accept the offer of a state-setup pot shop, the licensee will then be obligated to enter into a repayment arrangement for the costs incurred by the fund, and will have 10 years to pay back the money spent.
A DASNY fact sheet reports that the authority has spent several months searching for and identifying potential dispensary locations for CAURD licensees around the state. According to the agency, more than 10,000 properties have been screened statewide as of December 22, 2022, with 2,300 getting a more detailed look. Of those, 350 locations have been short listed as potential sites, DASNY states. The next step is reaching out to local municipalities to confirm the locations meet local zoning requirements. Following that SESC will then start negotiating with landlords on a rental agreement, while the Fund secures insurance.
Once all of those ducks are in a row, the site is then offered to a CAURD licensee. If they choose to accept, they sign on the dotted line with the state for the 10-year payback obligation. If not, then they go back into a location assignment queue and wait for another spot to open in their region, and the first location is offered to another licensee.
To read more about DASNY’s role in citing cannabis dispensaries around the state visit https://bit.ly/3IF9fm3 .
To read more about how various retail sites are being identified and set up for approved licensees, visit https://bit.ly/3vRvmhE .
Carvill said the documents supplied to the town regarding the process are also available for the public to view at the town offices.