BALDWINSVILLE — Now that New York State has decriminalized the use of cannabis by adults 21 years of age or older, municipalities across the state must decide if they will allow establishments to sell cannabis products or permit on-site consumption.
Municipalities who wish to opt out of allowing the sale or consumption of cannabis must pass a local law subject to permissive referendum by Dec. 31, 2021. This means that any resident who is opposed to the resolution may start a petition within 30 days of the vote. If a certain percentage of the municipality’s registered voters — 20% for villages and 10% for towns — sign the petition, the municipality must hold a vote on the resolution.
The Van Buren Town Board welcomed attorney Stacy Marris of the law firm Costello, Cooney & Fearon to the May 19 town board meeting to present on New York State’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which legalizes the production, distribution, and use of marijuana.
Under MRTA, adults ages 21 and older are allowed to possess, use or transfer — but not sell — up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis, which is often used in a vape or edible form.
“The state really wants to treat cannabis like tobacco,” Marris said.
Smoking or vaping cannabis will not be allowed in areas where smoking or vaping tobacco is prohibited, per the NYS Indoor Clean Air Act.
Under MRTA, retailers and on-site consumption establishments must be at least 500 feet away from a school and 200 feet away from a house of worship.
Eventually, adults over 21 will also be able to grow up to three immature and three mature cannabis plants with a maximum of six plants per household. The cultivation aspect of the law will not go into effect until 18 months after the first retail sale. Since retail sales are not expected to take place until 2022, cultivation likely will not be legal until 2023 or 2024.
MRTA places a 9% state sales tax on recreational cannabis sales and a 7% tax on medicinal sales. Recreational retail transactions will also be subject to 4% local sales tax to be split between the county and the municipality.
The law also expands the list of conditions for which medical cannabis can be prescribed and prohibits discrimination against people who use cannabis as permitted by MRTA.
While MRTA reaffirms that driving while impaired by cannabis is still a misdemeanor, law enforcement agencies are also concerned about how to measure impairment. According to MRTA, an academic institution will conduct research on technology to detect impairment by cannabis.
The state will handle licensing and signage for establishments that sell cannabis products or allow on-site consumption, but many of the details remain to be seen.
“This law was passed with a lot of asterisks, meaning there will be more guidance coming down the pike,” Marris said.
To view Marris’ full presentation on PAC-B TV, visit vimeo.com/552701324.
Van Buren Town Supervisor Claude Sykes said he expected the board would act on the issue within the next month.
Lysander to host cannabis Q&A
Van Buren is not the only municipality mulling over the cannabis issue. At the May 20 meeting of the Baldwinsville Village Board of Trustees, Mayor Dick Clarke asked his colleagues on the board to review Marris’ presentation at the Van Buren meeting and share their feedback.
“Some of the villages in the area are putting it on the agenda for a vote in November and let the citizens in their village decide,” Clarke said. “We need to get serious about it sooner rather than later so we can let the two towns know.”
Part of the village of Baldwinsville is located within the town of Van Buren and part of it is located within the town of Lysander, so the village must coordinate its decision with the towns.
The town of Lysander is encouraging residents to bring their questions about MRTA to the next town board meeting. The Lysander Town Board next meets at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 3, at Lysander Town Hall, 8220 Loop Road, Baldwinsville.