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From the Mayor: New Marijuana Law Explained; Village Can Opt Out of Hosting Retail Cannabis Establishment

By Mary Marvin, Mayor of Bronxville

Apr. 7, 2021: After more than 50 years since the first efforts to legalize marijuana in New York State, the Governor signed a bill so doing last Wednesday.

The document comprises 128 pages and 7,000 lines of explanation. The vote was essentially along party lines, and a key provision has made it legal for a person 21 years of age and older to now possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana immediately upon enactment. The possession of over 3 ounces of marijuana could result in a top fine of $125, and the possession of over 16 ounces is punishable with a misdemeanor.

However, since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, you can't legally transport it from another state. At one's place of residence, you can now possess up to 5 pounds of marijuana and grow marijuana plants at a maximum of 12 plants per household no matter how many people reside within.

In addition to these new possession guidelines, there is a new state oversight system that in approximately two years will regulate the legal cultivation, processing, distribution, sales, and use of marijuana. It will be so named the Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board which will be a division of the New York State Liquor Authority.

Upon review, it proves to be a fairly complex legal and regulatory program, including the determination of where marijuana retailers can locate and who gets to grow, process, distribute and sell marijuana and cannabis products.

The rollout cannot legally begin sooner than March 1, 2022 but in reality no one expects legal sales to begin for between 18 and 24 months. The new law also allows people convicted of marijuana-related crimes to have their records expunged. The language in the law says the process must begin "promptly" but the provision states, "it legally must be undertaken by state and local courts no later than two years from the bill's signing."

The sponsor of the bill was Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, who said she got interested in the issue when she saw 50,000 Black and Latino young people getting arrested each year for marijuana possession while White youth in her East Side of Manhattan district were not being stopped and searched by the police.

Cited to bolster this observation was an analysis by the New York Times in 2018 that found that Hispanic people across New York City had been arrested on low-level marijuana charges at five times the rate of White people and Black people in Manhattan were arrested at 15 times the rate of White people.

New York joins 15 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing marijuana with our next door neighbor in New Jersey the most recent one to ratify new laws.

In New York, marijuana cannot be smoked in schools, workplaces, or inside cars but legal to smoke anywhere where tobacco can be legally smoked. The law also provides for eventual home delivery and lounges where people can gather to use marijuana.

The new law also relaxed some medical marijuana program rules, which were first legalized in 2014. There is now a much less restrictive list of medical conditions covered, including the addition of Alzheimer's disease and muscular dystrophy as example. The current 30 day supply for patients will also now be doubled.

It remains illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana just as it's illegal to drive while intoxicated by alcohol, and the police will be able to pull people over who they believe are impaired. However the officer can only search the parts of the car that are readily accessible to the driver.

Unlike with alcohol, there is currently no easy way to quickly and reliably measure whether a person is under the influence of cannabis, especially since traces of the drug can stay in someone's system well after the high has worn off. As a result, a provision of the new law states that New York State Health Department will be required to look at emerging devices that could potentially allow officers to use a saliva test to detect whether a driver is high.

Those studying the economic impact of the law believe it has the potential for a $4.2 billion industry as New York could become one of the nation's largest markets. The law also provides that whatever the new pot of money turns out to be, 40% of the tax revenues will be distributed to various health, education, infrastructure, and job creation programs in low-income minority communities affected by disproportionately high rates of arrest and incarceration of mostly younger people.

The law also sets a goal of awarding 50% of the new business licenses in the cannabis industry to social equity applicants, which the law defines as those from communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition. In addition to minority and women-owned businesses, the bill provides preference to disabled veterans and financially distressed farmers.

Particularly germane to our Village is a section of the new law called the "opt out" clause, which allows cities, villages, and towns to pass a local law by December 31, 2021 opting out of hosting a retail cannabis establishment. If the Village Broad of Trustees should adopt the opt out clause by a simple majority vote, the law would become effective if no one files a petition signed by 20% of the Village's qualified electors within 30 days of the board voting on this local law asking for a permissive referendum to be voted on by the community at large. The Village can opt back in anytime through the same procedure.

The Board of Trustees and I need to hear from you as it is vital to take the temperature of the Village on this issue, so do not hesitate to call or email any of us.

Photo by A. Warner


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.



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Bronxville Overview

Bronxville is a quaint village (one square mile) located just 16 miles north of midtown Manhattan (roughly 30 minutes on the train) and has a population of approximately 6,500. It is known as a premier community with an excellent public school (K-12) and easy access to Manhattan. Bronxville offers many amenities including an attractive business district, a hospital (Lawrence Hospital), public paddle and tennis courts, fine dining at local restaurants, two private country clubs and a community library.

While the earliest settlers of Bronxville date back to the first half of the 18th century, the history of the modern suburb of Bronxville began in 1890 when William Van Duzer Lawrence purchased a farm and commissioned the architect, William A. Bates, to design a planned community of houses for well-known artists and professionals that became a thriving art colony. This community, now called Lawrence Park, is listed on the National register of Historic Places and many of the homes still have artists’ studios. A neighborhood association within Lawrence Park called “The Hilltop Association” keeps this heritage alive with art shows and other events for neighbors.

Bronxville offers many charming neighborhoods as well as a variety of living options for residents including single family homes, town houses, cooperatives and condominiums. One of the chief benefits of living in “the village” is that your children can attend the Bronxville School.

The Bronxville postal zone (10708, known as “Bronxville PO”) includes the village of Bronxville as well as the Chester Heights section of Eastchester, parts of Tuckahoe and the Lawrence Park West, Cedar Knolls, Armour Villa and Longvale sections of Yonkers. Many of these areas have their own distinct character. For instance, the Armour Villa section has many historic homes and even has its own newsletter called “The Villa Voice” which reports on neighborhood news.

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