When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed cannabis legislation into law on March 31, making recreational marijuana legal for adults in New York — it gave cities, towns and villages the option of opting-out of having retail experiences.
If a community chooses to opt-out of sales (they can’t opt-out of the legalization aspect of the law), they have until Dec. 31 to pass a local law. However, the people who live there can have a say in the matter — signed petitions may force a referendum on that local law.
Whether local municipalities opt in or out is likely to depend on further review and translation of the law, officials say; however, New York — the 15th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana — will quickly become one of the largest markets of legal cannabis in the nation.
Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) met locally last week to begin discussions, with a follow-up meeting to be held this week. NYCOM also hosted a webinar, “New York’s Marijuana Legalization: What Does it Mean for Local Governments?”
NYCOM “was still reviewing the law,” said Izzo, adding that mayors will be provided with more details this week. “They’re going to give us an analysis of the bill and what we need to do from an implementation standpoint,” the mayor said.
Izzo said mayors are hoping for more information on all aspects of the law, including what the provisions will be if a municipality chooses to opt out of having retail dispensaries.
Once the law is fully reviewed, discussions will also need to occur with local law enforcement and the codes department, as well as other municipal departments, the mayor said. “Once we have an understanding of the broad range” of the law, “we will gauge and scope our next steps,” Izzo said.
Also if the city decided to opt out, the mayor said it would need to weigh what that means against the decision of other area municipalities.
“If we opted out, but everyone else around us opted in, we’d need to look at what that would accomplish if someone could just drive five minutes down the road” to purchase marijuana, she said. “That’s an issue we’re juggling with.”
There’s also those who carry and drive under a Commercial Driver’s License. At the federal level, marijuana is still illegal, so Izzo said she questions if a driver with a CDL found with marijuana in New York would be in violation of that license by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
And legal searches of vehicles thought to be in possession of marijuana and perhaps other illegal substances is also in question.
“As far as law enforcement conducting searches, we need to know what’s legal and illegal,” Izzo said. “What if other drugs, like cocaine, are involved other than marijuana. It’s a question of how that search becomes legal so law enforcement can arrest the person for possessing the illegal substance.”
The mayor said Drug Recognition Experts will also need to be out on the road to detect those who may be driving under the influence of drugs, but few officers are trained and available to do so.
“Our police will need to be actively involved in this,” said Izzo. “All these things we’re asking questions about.”