Update: State Marijuana Law Could Bump Into Town Restrictions

Updated: Town attorney Nick Ciappetta  is expected to review a state agreement that would legalize recreational marijuana in light of a Town Board vote in 2019 to ban its use and sale in Huntington. 

In August 2019, the Town Board unanimously voted to prohibit the use, sale and distribution of marijuana for recreational purposes anywhere in town. That was enacted after a public hearing in June 2019, which was scheduled in response to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to legalize recreational marijuana at the time.

“The Town Attorney says he would need to look at this specific law and see how it is worded to determine whether an additional opt-out is warranted if the Town Board wanted to do so; the most recent draft did not have a Town opt-out option. The Supervisor would support a vote on a new opt-out, if necessary,” town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said.
 
Over the weekend, the governor’s office said, “Cities, towns, and villages may opt out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by Dec. 31, or nine months after the effective date of the legislation. They cannot opt out of adult-use legalization.”
 
Update: The State Legislature passed the bill Tuesday night that will allow adult use of recreational marijuana. 
 
Cuomo said Tuesday night, “Tonight, the New York State Legislature took the first step in a major leap forward for the Empire State by passing legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis. I thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and the many legislators who worked tirelessly on this issue for securing passage of this historic legislation. For too long the prohibition of cannabis disproportionately targeted communities of color with harsh prison sentences and after years of hard work, this landmark legislation provides justice for long-marginalized communities, embraces a new industry that will grow the economy, and establishes substantial safety guards for the public.”
 
And State Attorney General Letitia James said, “The legalization of marijuana is a racial and criminal justice imperative, and today’s vote is a critical step towards a fairer and more just system. For too long, people of color have been disproportionately impacted by an outdated and shortsighted marijuana prohibition, and it’s past time we right this wrong. We must also engineer an economy that will provide a much-needed boost to communities devastated by the war on drugs and COVID-19, and I am hopeful this will help to achieve that for New Yorkers.”
 
The possibility of legal marijuana sales and use in town brought a variety of responses.
 

Dr. Jeffrey L. Reynolds, president and chief executive officer of Family and Children’s Association, said that without legal definitions of what constitutes impairment, drivers using marijuana could pose more of a threat on roads.  And, he said, he was concerned about limiting access to children under 18, as well as people with mental health issues, who might turn to marijuana to medicate themselves instead of dealing with their health problems directly. 

Assemblyman Keith Brown, R-Northport, who is the ranking minority member on the Assembly Alcohol and Substance Abuse Committee, and a member of the Northport Drug and Alcohol Taskforce, said, “The legalization of marijuana is an issue I’ve looked into deeply and, consequently, is one I cannot support. Data from other states show the costs we will pay as a society due to various factors, such as increases in driver-impairment among others, far outweigh any potential tax benefits we may receive, and our children will be the ones hurt more than anyone. What matters more than anything else when discussing this issue are the facts, and there’s no refuting that marijuana use in children and adolescents increases following legalization.

“Empowering corporations to commercialize marijuana and use marketing to prey upon children and those susceptible to dependency will only cause abuse by our young people to become worse with time, in ways many may not foresee now. While some have hailed the movement to legalize recreational-use marijuana as one of equity and justice, I fear that by hastily rushing to set up a marijuana market in our state we will pay the price for it in terms of our health and greater economic well-being for generations to come,” he said.

But Hunter Gross, who is running to claim a Democratic spot on the fall ticket, noted the potential financial  benefit of marijuana sales. 

“We can take the additional surplus and finally fix our roads and invest in new sustainable jobs in our Town. If we don’t opt in, the fact is residents of Huntington will purchase cannabis in neighboring Towns, while we lose the much-needed revenue.”

Elected officials in Albany say they expect tax collection on sales to reach $350 million, with the potential to create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs.

 

 

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