At same time, city may ban all smoking in parks
The Beacon City Council does not appear to be interested in “opting out” of allowing retail shops to sell marijuana, although it may ban all smoking and vaping in city parks.
A law enacted on March 31 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo legalized the possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana for recreational use for adults ages 21 or older; the opening of licensed retail shops where customers can buy and consume marijuana; and a sales tax that will benefit municipalities, counties, schools, community grants and a drug treatment and public education fund.
It also allows municipalities to “opt out” of the retail part of the law by passing a statute before Dec. 31 that bans retailers from selling pot or allowing on-site consumption. After that, municipalities can only pass laws lifting earlier bans or regulating the “time, place and manner of the operation” of licensed retailers.
Members of the Cold Spring and Nelsonville village boards have broached the topic of putting the question to voters. But Beacon council members said during a workshop on Monday (June 14) that they’re leaning toward not opting out.
“I have no desire to opt out of the sales or smoking bars,” said Council Member Jodi McCredo. “It should have been legal all along, and people should have the freedom to do that.”
If Beacon doesn’t opt out, the city would receive a 3 percent cut of a 13 percent sales tax that will take effect in April, with 1 percent going to Dutchess County and 9 percent to the state.
City Attorney Drew Gamils likened consumption sites to cigar lounges. “You can smoke cannabis on-site, but it’s kind of like a bar: You can’t walk out with an open beer,” she said.
People would have to be 21 to enter a retail shop or consumption site, and the facilities would have to be located at least 500 feet from schools and 200 feet from places of worship. The city could add other restrictions through its zoning code, such as a distance requirement from city parks, she said.
The state law also allows people to grow their own marijuana plants, regardless of whether the city opts out of retail sales. No more than six mature and six immature cannabis plants can be cultivated in or at a single residence, and an individual may have no more than three mature and three immature plants.
The law places additional restrictions on personal cultivation: It cannot take place in a community or backyard garden or in any other place where the plants would be accessible to people under 21. Personal cultivation won’t be allowed until 18 months after the first retail sale of adult-use cannabis products, which puts it at 2023 at the earliest, Gamils said.
Smoking marijuana would be prohibited in schools, workplaces and vehicles but would be allowed anywhere that it’s legal to smoke tobacco.
Beacon already has a law on its books prohibiting smoking on city trails. The council on Monday discussed extending it to parks and banning vaping there, as well.
“Enforcement is probably only as necessary,” said City Administrator Chris White. “If you’re way up in the woods and nobody sees you, we’re not going to be watching every tree. However, if you’re at a soccer game and somebody’s smoking up and not being respectful, I’m sure they’ll be reminded that there’s a law.”
However, Council Member Air Rhodes said, if the city bans smoking in parks, enforcement should not disproportionally focus on people of color.
“People are absolutely already smoking in the parks,” Rhodes said. “If it’s not a problem now, I don’t necessarily see it increasingly being a problem. I hesitate to create criminality” where it might not be necessary.
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