GovernmentThe Examiner

Mt. Pleasant Seeks Stiffer Penalties for Stores Selling Cannabis Products

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Mount Pleasant officials are weighing a new local law that would impose harsher penalties against retail establishments that sell cannabis products in town after two convenience stores were recently caught violating the law.

On Mar. 14, the Town Board will hold a public hearing that would prohibit the unlawful sale of cannabis and cannabis vaporizing equipment from retail shops. In 2021, Mount Pleasant, similar to many of its neighboring communities, decided against allowing dispensaries in town after the state legislature gave municipalities that option for retail sales and consumption lounges.

Even though the retail sale of cannabis products is illegal in town, the maximum $250 fine is proving to be an ineffective deterrent for the amount of money that a business can rake in by illicitly selling the products, said Police Chief Paul Oliva.

One store on Hawthorne’s Elwood Avenue that was found to have been in violation opened and illegally sold cannabis a second time. There was also a shop in Thornwood earlier this year that was cited. In both instances the stores weren’t displaying cannabis but were selling the product if requested.

“From the research that I have done, the best way to combat the opening and operation of these establishments is through local laws that will give the town the ability to inspect businesses, confiscate cannabis products, revoke the permission to operate and levy fines against the owners,” Oliva said.

“This should hold the line until the (state) Office of Cannabis Management is able to put the necessary infrastructure in place and appropriately staff investigator positions.”

Not only haven’t investigators been hired, but it won’t be until next month when the state will offer the civil service exams for the positions, Oliva added.

Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said the town is looking to find a way to put some heft in its decision to opt out from retail sales.

“So now, we’ll have to have a law that will be able to enforce that opt out,” Fulgenzi said. “This is what that law proposes, that there will be fines, confiscations of the cannabis and other products, so this gives teeth to this opting out provision.”

Fulgenzi said last week the town was still putting the finishing touches on the proposed law and did not have available the maximum penalties that could be levied against violators.

Oliva said New York City is running into the same problem of illegal cannabis sales, only on a larger scale. Mount Pleasant isn’t the only place in Westchester that is encountering illegal sales, including to minors.

“The town is endeavoring to keep these unauthorized and illegal shops from selling cannabis,” Oliva said.

“The illegal shops sell cannabis products to children because they have no worry of losing any license.”
The Town Board meeting on Mar. 14 when the public hearing will be held is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

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