North Elba ballot may have cannabis questions | News, Sports, Jobs

Former town Supervisor Jay Rand and Town Clerk Laurie Dudley pose with the town’s cannabis petitions at the North Elba Town Hall on Monday.
(Provided photo — Allison McGahay)

LAKE PLACID — Two petitions were filed on Monday to bring the town of North Elba’s cannabis laws to a vote this November. Former town Supervisor Jay Rand filed the petitions on behalf of nearly 20 North Elba residents who collected signatures.

Recreational marijuana was legalized statewide last March, and local governments had until Dec. 31, 2021 to pass local laws opting out of allowing dispensaries and/or on-site consumption licensing within their boundaries, which the North Elba Town Council did at a special meeting on Dec. 17, 2021.

Local laws opting out of allowing cannabis dispensaries and on-site consumption licensing were subject to a permissive referendum. While villages could opt out and pass a resolution to place the laws on the ballot, towns had to wait for residents to file a petition to put the laws on a ballot. If enough residents signed a petition — at least 10% of the residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election — within 45 days of the vote, the laws could appear on the next general election ballot. That means North Elba needed at least 285 signatures from residents by Monday to get its laws on the ballot.

Allison McGahay, Republican election commissioner at the Essex County Board of Elections, was one of 19 people who circulated petitions to put the laws on the ballot. McGahay gathered the petitions to combine for submission on Monday, and as of that morning she counted 331 signatures for the dispensary law and 341 signatures for the on-site consumption law.

McGahay said that the town needed two separate petitions for the laws since the council passed the opt-out laws separately. Some other towns that petitioned to vote on cannabis laws, like Jay, only needed one petition because their councils passed one law opting out of both dispensaries and on-site consumption licensing, according to McGahay.

Town Clerk Laurie Dudley still needs to validate North Elba’s petitions before the laws can appear on the ballot. Town clerks have to examine the petition within 30 days of receiving it, according to the New York Conference of Mayors. The clerk then has to give a certificate to their town council saying they’ve looked over the petition and whether or not they think it complies with the law’s requirements. If Dudley approves the petitions, McGahay said she would then would submit a ballot proposal to the county board of elections with a copy of the opt-out resolutions made by the town council on Dec. 17.

Petitioning

Rand said he carried the petitions around in his pocket whenever he was around town, and he pulled them out whenever he bumped into someone he knew. He thought people appreciated the effort to put the laws to a vote.

“It’s a great way to put your trust in the people,” he said.

McGahay said she and her husband Bill went door-to-door to gather signatures around town.

She said people first asked her whether the petition was for or against the cannabis laws. Once people understood that the petition was to put the question to the voters, McGahay said they were “very supportive.”

“Everyone who I spoke with who signed the petition said that they were signing it because they believed that this is a question that should be presented to the voters,” she said. “Just me personally, I never had anyone say, ‘I don’t want to sign your petition.’”

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