Lowville, the small town of less than 5,000 people in Lewis County, may soon join other municipalities by not hosting an adult-use marijuana dispensary, a decision that will follow a public hearing later this month.

While the town must follow state laws that make growing, possessing and using certain amounts of marijuana legal, it does plan to opt out of legislation that would allow dispensaries and on-site use in the town. The opt-out provision was included in the state legislation passed earlier this year.

“One size does not indeed fit all and certain jurisdictions may have different feelings about different issues contained in certain legislation,” Town Supervisor Randy Schell said.

What You Need To Know

  • New York State gives each municipality until the end of the year to opt-out of allowing marijuana dispensaries and on-premise use

  • The town of Lowville, considered conservative, may vote later this month to opt-out of the program

  • The town says by opting out, it allows people to gather signatures on a petition to trigger a public vote

The town doesn’t know what the impact of a dispensary or on-premise use would have on the community, Schell said. And residents are unsure about legalization themselves. A 2020 survey by Jefferson Community College released in March showed Lewis County residents split with 43% in favor of it and 43% opposed to legalization.

The funding and the tax money that would come from legalization will not be a windfall, Schell said. He calculates about $15,000 coming in from every $1 million in sales.

“We just didn’t think that that would compensate for the other impacts; quality of life and others that having a dispensary or on-site use would entail,” he added.

But there are other considerations to the marijuana law than just the sale of it. Schell said that farmers, who heavily populate his community, could benefit from crop income.

He said formally opting out of the legislation may offer an opportunity for residents to gather signatures for a petition that would trigger a public vote.

“That is probably the only way we are ever going to gauge the true feeling of the community,” he said.

Schell said the town will hold a public hearing on the opt-out on May 20. He expects the town board to vote either that night or shortly after. A public vote could be held in June during the primaries or in November general election.

Municipalities have until the end of the year to decide if they will opt out.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the municipality as the village of Lowville. The town of Lowville is pursuing potentially opting out of allowing marijuana dispensaries.