Town of Ontario passes law to regulate cannabis businesses before opening

Pause on Cannabis Shops

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WAYNE COUNTY, N.Y. – As the state begins to process licenses for retail cannabis businesses, one local town is putting a pause on pot shops.

Monday night, the Town of Ontario held a public hearing to get input from neighbors before adopting a local law that would place a hold on issuing permits to cannabis retail businesses. Before a cannabis business can open in the Town of Ontario, Wayne County wants to pass a new law that would regulate them.

The law would impose a four-to-six-month moratorium on review and decisions of applications, site plan approval, building permits and special permits for the operation of cannabis retail dispensaries.

The town is not opting out of allowing cannabis retail shops, they say this will allow the town time to set guidelines.

“Some of these stores are not understated in their advertisement. It looks like something with a lot of neon and lights,” Anthony Villani, Attorney for the Town of Ontario said.

Although there weren’t many neighbors at Monday nights Town of Ontario meeting there were a few retail cannabis applicants who had concerns about the town board’s proposal to adopt a local law placing a temporary moratorium before cannabis dispensaries can open.

“The intent of this local law is to just give the town a period of time to develop a regulatory scheme, to develop time, method and manner of operations of cannabis shops,” Villani said.

Now that the New York State Cannabis Board is reviewing applications, the board says, it’s time to take advantage of its reserved powers. Although the town does have discretion to regulate, there are boundaries the Cannabis Board has, and it is subject to its review.

“What the town does have in our reading of the statute anyway is to reserve power to regulate hours of operation,  where it’s going to go, what districts is it going to be in and some architectural or aesthetic issues the town may need to address,” Villani said.

So far, town officials say they are aware of two applicants who are interested in opening dispensaries.

Applicants we spoke to at Monday night’s meeting told us off camera, they don’t agree with the new local law that will regulate weed businesses.

Villani said the law will go into effect in the next month or so.