High Times in the Village
This is the first of a multi-part article looking at the implications of marijuana sales and use in our Village. Almost two years ago, the New York State legislature legalized the possession and recreational use of cannabis. Personal consumption and growing of cannabis for all adults aged 21 years or older is now legal. The stated purposes of the law are to create a regulated and taxed cannabis industry and to provide for social and economic justice related to the sale and use of cannabis due to the disproportionate impact on communities of color resulting from the prosecution of cannabis-related laws.
Legal sale of adult‐use cannabis will fall under the newly created Cannabis Control Board (CCB). The CCB administers the State’s adult‐use and medical use programs, and makes rules, issues licenses, and investigates and enforces infractions of the law just like alcohol is regulated by the New York State Liquor Authority.
Retail Sales and Consumption Lounges in the Village
Municipalities could opt out of allowing retail dispensaries and/or on‐site consumption establishments from operating within their boundaries if they adopted a local law by December 31, 2021.
If not exercised by December 31, 2021, a municipality could not opt out later. However, any municipality that had opted out can reverse course at any time to allow retail sales and/or on‐site consumption establishments.
Village of Mamaroneck Decides to Opt-Out
The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees held two public hearings in 2021 considering whether it was in the Village’s interest to opt-out. Public interest was significant and vocal on both sides. At the conclusion of the hearings the Board voted 4:1 to opt-out and prohibit both on-site cannabis consumption establishments and cannabis retail dispensaries within the Village of Mamaroneck.
Given the December 31 deadline to opt-out, the Board believed it was important to wait until the CCB published regulations about the zoning and operation of cannabis retail dispensaries and consumption establishments. NYS provided some rules that retail dispensaries and consumption establishments could not be located within 500 feet of a public school or 200 feet from a religious institution, but municipalities could further restrict locations based on other reasonable zoning restrictions addressing public concerns.
Trustee Nora Lucas emphasized her concern with limited information to make an informed decision, stating that “if we don’t opt-out now, we don’t know what we are agreeing to.” Several trustees stated that this issue should be decided by public referendum given the enormous public interest. Mayor Murphy agreed that the Village should opt out of consumption establishments but disagreed with opting out of dispensaries – citing possible zoning locations and comparing it to alcohol. In an email to the community, Mayor Murphy stated he believes “that dispensaries will actually help make it more difficult for kids to purchase pot in the long term by making the illegal business less profitable.” This view did not prevail as Trustees Natchez, Tafur, Wenstrup and Lucas voted in favor of opting out with Mayor Murphy the lone no vote.
Other surrounding communities in Westchester also voted to opt out, including the Town of Mamaroneck, City of Rye, Town and Village of Scarsdale, Village of Pelham and Pelham Manor, Village of Port Chester, Village of Rye Brook, Village of Larchmont, and Village of Harrison.
What can we control?
In addition to NYS guidelines, municipalities may regulate the time, place, and manner of cannabis dispensaries and consumption establishments, including hours of operation, parking, noise, odor, and distance requirements.
So What’s Next?
It seems likely the newly elected majority of the Board of Trustees is interested in reviving the conversation about cannabis in the Village. The next part of this article will address the financial impacts to our Village taxes along with the safeguards to our neighborhoods that should be considered.