City council approves updating code for new cannabis retail law

City of Cortland Common Council. (Photo provided by Kevin L. Smith of The Cortland Voice).

The Cortland Common Council unanimously approved an update to the city’s administrative code to be in line with its new cannabis retail law at Tuesday’s meeting.

The city’s administrative code currently limits retail dispensaries of cannabis and cannabis-related products within zoning districts other than general business (GB-1) zoning.

An update in the code is intended to align with the new local law that limits the retail sale of tobacco products, electronic smoking devices and other products regulated by Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act. The law also enforces the requirement of a local tobacco retail license on top of the state-issued license.

The city limits for GB-1 zoning includes the Riverside Plaza on the northside of Cortland and the cluster of businesses near exit 11 on Interstate-81.

Corporation counsel AJ Meldrim noted that other municipalities in the state are making adjustments to its administrative code as well. In Cortland’s code, there will be specific definitions for cannabis dispensaries and head shops.

“Then again, they’ll tie a little bit together,” Meldrim said.

AJ Meldrim, City of Cortland’s Corporation Counsel. (Photo provided by Kevin L. Smith of The Cortland Voice).

Meldrim said the move provides an “extra level of boxes” for entities and retailers to check. Even with a state license, the city now has an “mechanism for oversight,” Meldrim said, which makes sure the products for sale are legal and other regulations.

“This gives us a strong voice in what the state has already done,” Meldrim said. “Other communities are doing this, and it’s been effective.”

With the city’s new tobacco retail law and the legalization of marijuana in New York state, Meldrim said at Tuesday’s meeting that updates to the code were needed.

“We just want to be able to have a say in the makeup of our community as far as licensing, location, things like that,” Meldrim said.

The city’s new law puts 1,000-foot buffer zones around all of the area’s schools, the Cortland County YMCA, YWCA Cortland and more.

“We don’t want a cannabis dispensary popping up next to Barry (Elementary) School or something,” Meldrim said.

Below is a map that shows the buffer zones in the city:

(Photo provided by the City of Cortland).

Cortland mayor Scott Steve mentioned in the past there are 18 licensed tobacco sales points in the city. Of that total of sale points, four of them are not in the buffer zone. This includes Joe’s Kwik Mart, Smoker’s Choice and Family Dollar on Clinton Avenue, and the Speedway gas station on Port Watson Street.

Since those four establishments are out of the buffer zone, they are “grandfathered” into the law. He added that the city would implement a max number of licensed tobacco sales. Once a local business ceases operations, it will not be able to reapply for a license.

A breakdown of the adjustment to the city’s administrative code can be seen here.