With empty storefronts and tax revenue on line, cannabis shops should be allowed in Village

To the editor:

The board of trustees in the Village of Pelham continues to consider passing local law number 4, which would ban the sale of cannabis in the village. I write this letter not as a cannabis advocate, but as a village business advocate who supports a lower proportional tax burden among its residents. I recognize that retail cannabis is a sensitive public issue, and I appreciate the arguments and opinions of people who support the proposed law. That said, I believe the case for retail cannabis in the village is clear, and I offer six reasons to support this position:

1. The village is lined with empty storefronts, particularly on Fifth Avenue. While there are many reasons for this condition, it is driven by consolidated commercial real-estate ownership and the indifference among village landlords about the current high-rent, high-vacancy dynamic. This is a challenging issue to address legislatively, so making cannabis sales available to small business owners is a rare direct action we can take to encourage much-needed retail in our village.

2. The excise tax on cannabis stands to net the village 3% of sales within our borders—on top of standard commercial tax revenue. While clear public forecasting is scarce, recent reports show the average cannabis dispensary in the United States yields $3 million in revenue; $90,000 per year in direct, additive and unconditional revenue to the village would not be insignificant.

3. Yonkers, Mount Vernon, White Plains, New Rochelle, Pound Ridge and Sleepy Hollow will all allow retail cannabis, and the state has indicated that disadvantaged communities will get priority for immediate licensing. So, like all other existing businesses in our village, a cannabis entrepreneur considering a Village of Pelham location would have to consider Pelham residents as the primary audience for their patronage—with opt-out neighbors from Larchmont, Mamaroneck and Scarsdale representing supplemental business potential.

4. Recreational use of cannabis among adults 21 and over is legal in 19 states, including New York and our immediate neighbors in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Despite how one might think about the normalization of cannabis in our culture, it has already happened regionally and is on track to happen federally. Nothing we do at the village level will change that fact. And, as cannabis stores open across our state and in our neighboring towns, retail will be reduced to a matter of convenience, and whether those who wish to buy cannabis legally need to drive 20 minutes, five minutes, or even walk to the closest establishment.

5. Legal cannabis retail in the United States looks nothing like the grimy head shops of old. Almost all cannabis dispensaries look like a cross between a pharmacy and a yoga studio. Patrons are required to have their IDs checked and scanned at the door. The shops are quiet and well lit. The product is contained behind a counter. Security is tight. If we can tolerate bars, nail salons, liquor stores, Dunkin’ Donuts and empty storefronts, we should have no problem with the aesthetics that any suburban cannabis dispensary would contribute to our village.

6. Finally, just because someone can open a dispensary here in the Village of Pelham, doesn’t mean they will. The relative disadvantages of limited parking, high rents and indirect vehicular access will likely render a dicey business plan for any entrepreneur considering the village for their retail location. But we should let the free market guide that trajectory, as opposed to micro-regulating a legal substance that will soon become a commodity.

I urge the Village of Pelham board to resist passing local law number 4 and hope they can take this rare opportunity to create a more welcoming retail environment in a village that desperately needs it.

Dan Bollin

44 Clifford Ave.