Like it or not, marijuana is now legal in New York state. Enthusiasts 21 and older may carry as much as 3 ounces of pot, and they can smoke it in public if they choose to, with limitations mirroring the do's and don'ts of cigarette smoking.
And while shops offering various marijuana products are still a ways away, we encourage municipalities and residents to begin having conversations about whether or not pot stores are the right fit for their communities.
The state law legalizing recreational marijuana includes a provision allowing cities, towns and villages to opt-out of having retail dispensaries, and they have until the end of the year to pass a local law affirming that. Residents also have the option of putting together a petition and force a public referendum. Additionally, municipalities that opt-in will still be able to establish some local rules for dispensaries.
Some municipalities may be tempted to jump in head-first and approve the establishment of dispensaries as a means of bringing in more sales tax revenue. Others are sure to object to supporting something that many view as a social ill and a threat to health and safety. We believe that it's too early for anyone to make up their minds just yet.
Licensing for dispensaries and other specifics haven't been sorted out yet, and shops aren't set to open until the end of 2022, so there is no need to rush into a decision to prohibit local marijuana sales until more information is gathered about how this law will precisely work and analysis done on community impacts in other states where this was done. Residents should now take some time to learn more about the potential pros and cons of this law and express their views to their elected officials. And municipalities should use that feedback to make sure they come up with a position that's in the best interest of their community.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.