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Cuba NY embraces the legal cannabis market. A talk with Mayor Michelle Miller

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By Andrew Harris

   WS: The Village of Cuba has made the choice to fully embrace the emerging cannabis market.  Was this an easy decision?  Was there pressure from parts of the community to “opt-out?”

Mayor Miller: This was not an easy decision for the Board of Trustees.  The majority of the Board struggled with their decision, but they have been researching the issue these last few months.  Some attended public meetings at neighboring munis.  We had our own public meeting and the local citizens who spoke up made excellent points.  The majority of the opinions expressed at this meeting were in favor of allowing the retail sites to be open in the Village.  The Trustees took all this in, considered all the viewpoints, and spoke eloquently at our meeting in December prior to the vote to proceed and not opt out.


WS: Was there any one compelling argument made for embracing this new marketplace that was most convincing?  

Mayor Miller: One argument especially compelling to one Trustee was that this was a safer purchase for those wanting the product.  He felt it better to have a regulated product for consumers.  Another Trustee agreed and added that with products available at nearby Seneca Nation stores, opting out does little to change the climate for consumers, but does leave Cuba out of the possibility of reaping revenues associated with retail sales.


WS: Did the religious community in Cuba forcefully advocate for prohibition like they did in Wellsville ?

Mayor Miller: At our public meeting, no religious groups presented. 


WS: Why do churches, pastors, and affiliated groups seem to have a temperance for alcohol but deep opposition to cannabis ?

Mayor Miller: Not sure about the alcohol/ok vs. cannabis/bad conflict.  I think that since marijuana has been illegal for so long, it became a moral issue.  


WS: Does the village intend to use any “time and place powers,” to regulate the location or hours of operation for potential businesses ?

Mayor Miller: The Village will watch to see what regulations NYS puts in place.  At this time, those are still to be determined.  After that is all settled, we will evaluate if local time, manner, and place regs need to be put in place.  However, we don’t anticipate trying to put any restrictions on these businesses that would not be in place for liquor stores or bars.


WS: Has the village been contacted by any of the larger cannabis companies who are already established in places like Canada, Michigan, Oregon ?

Mayor Miller: We have not been contacted by any companies at this point.  We would welcome their inquiries.


WS: How will places like Cuba and Olean build industries that can compete with the Seneca Nation, who have already begun retail sales ?

Mayor Miller: Just as our local businesses compete with Seneca Nation on commodities such as gas and cigarettes, that same competition will exist with cannabis products.  One asset we have is location within the village, walking distance for many, and proximity to other retail businesses.  Also, there are many people who prefer to pay the tax dollar, knowing that it benefits the community.


WS: Look into your crystal ball: Where do you see the cannabis marketplace in Cuba after 5 years?  

Mayor Miller: 5 years down the road?  I’m hoping to see both a dispensary and consumption site, operating successfully within the village, benefitting other businesses, and residents taking it in stride just as they have when we used to have downtown bars, such as The Bakery and St. James.

WS: Did Cuba do any pro-forma analysis of the potential tax revenues from legal marijuana? 

Mayor Miller: There doesn’t seem to be a way to predict the potential revenue at this point.  Not knowing where other dispensaries might open is one reason.  Another intangible is the collateral revenues that we hope for at other businesses, such as restaurants and stores.  Bringing commerce into Cuba is the goal.


WS: Has the Allegany County Office of Economic Development been of assistance to villages like Cuba in helping attract potential investors ?

Mayor Miller: We feel Cuba is well-poised to be an excellent location for retail cannabis businesses.  We have newly renovated commercial business spaces, restaurants, stores, gas stations, and places to stay.  There are also available manufacturing spaces, which would lend themselves well to production.  

WS: Chief of Police Justin Birch(Burch) is widely known as a forward-thinking member of the law enforcement community.  Did he advise you on this subject and can you give a little insight into that discussion ?

Mayor Miller: Chief Burch is a forward thinker and an excellent Police Chief.  When he disseminated information to us, he kept his tone neutral, but did add that if we wanted, he would be happy to share his thoughts. I believe trustees discussed things with him off the record.

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