Putnam Legislators Urge Towns, Villages Not to Inhale

Advise against letting marijuana stores open 

The Putnam County Legislature’s Health Committee on June 23 approved sending a letter to towns and villages advising them to opt out of accepting marijuana retail stores and smoking lounges — before it’s too late. 

New York legalized recreational use of pot this year, with adults 21 and over able to possess up to 3 ounces and the state authorizing licensed businesses where the drug can be bought and smoked. The law gives cities, towns and villages until Dec. 31 to opt out of permitting such businesses within their boundaries. 

Because counties are barred from setting marijuana policy, regulation “is ultimately up to the municipalities,” said Legislator Amy Sayegh of Mahopac.   

Speaking as chair of the Health Committee, Sayegh said that “opting out, in my opinion, would be the most prudent.” Adopted by 3-0 vote, the letter she proposed warns that a municipality that fails to opt out automatically opts in and “will not be able to opt out in the future.” 

Citing scholarly articles, the letter states that young adults living within 4 miles of a marijuana store are more likely to use the drug, use it heavily and have more problems as a result, and that prices of homes within roughly a third of a mile from a store fall by 3 to 4 percent, on average, compared to those in “control” areas. 

Cannabis Studies

The Health Committee letter cites three recent “research findings from communities in other states that have marijuana dispensaries”:

Youth aged 13 to 17 [in Washington state] living close to dispensaries and exposed to marijuana advertising were more likely to report their intention to use (Journal of Health Communication, 2020);

Young adults [18-22] living [in Los Angeles County] within a 4-mile radius of a dispensary are more likely to use marijuana, more likely to use it heavily, and experience more problems related to its (Journal of Addictions, 2020); and

Home prices within a 36-mile area [in Washington state] of a new dispensary fall by 3 to 4 percent on average relative to control areas. (Regional Science and Urban Economics, 2021).

The letter urged local officials to approach the issue carefully. “New York is essentially forcing municipalities that do not opt out to live with the unknown consequences of cannabis legalization forever,” it declared. 

8 thoughts on “Putnam Legislators Urge Towns, Villages Not to Inhale

  1. There seems like a lack of education and significant false information being spread. The quoted misinformation is more of a threat to public health and safety than the information cited. These towns need to do a better job of speaking with real industry professionals rather than the ill-informed.

  2. The ill-informed in this particular article, in my estimation, is the reporter who misquotes and misinforms the reader. The letter uses information from the Prevention Council of Putnam after years of studying Colorado and other states that legalized marijuana. The letter only asks municipalities to opt out for now in order to see how the process rolls out in New York. Towns can opt back in anytime, but cannot opt out after opting in. Read the letter for yourself.

    Sayegh is a Putnam County legislator.

  3. In reporting about this legalization issue, I really wish the Highlands Current could begin to use the correct terminology for this substance. Pot, weed, marijuana and various other names for the smokable and edible forms of this plant are all colloquial and slang terms for cannabis. If news sources and those entrusted with making decisions about its use and availability want to be taken seriously, proper terms must be used. The new law governing its legalization only refers to it as cannabis. The Highlands Current and Legislator Sayegh should know this and write/act accordingly.

    • We use The Associated Press Stylebook as a guide; it recommends “marijuana” but says “pot” and “cannabis” are acceptable, as well. According to the Stylebook, cannabis is the usual term outside North America and “some prefer cannabis because of arguments the term marijuana was popularized in the United States in the early 20th century to stoke anti-Mexican sentiment. Slang terms such as weed, reefer, ganja or 420 are acceptable in limited, colloquial cases or in quotations.”

  4. We have been living with the consequences of liquor legalization for quite a long time, and we know it hasn’t been pretty. There is reams of data showing cannabis consumption to be far less dangerous than alcohol consumption, so I’m curious as to what kind of research Putnam legislators base their argument on, if any. [via Instagram]

    • In its letter to town and village leaders, the county Legislature’s Health Committee cited recent studies on the effect of marijuana dispensaries published in the Journal of Health Communication, the Journal of Addictions and Regional Science and Urban Economics. We have updated the story with links.

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