Image: NYSAC

The question of whether to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use is being carefully considered by the New York Legislature right now. Although the matter was not included in the 2019 State Budget, it is possible legislation will be introduced before the current session ends later this spring.

If New York state lawmakers decide to legalize recreational marijuana, our local municipalities – including Chemung County – are going to have very important decisions to make.

Specifically, Chemung County could opt out of authorizing the cultivation, processing, distribution, and sale of adult-use marijuana through a local law, ordinance, or resolution. In the event Chemung County does not opt out, the County, the City of Elmira, towns and villages may pass their own ordinances and/or regulations governing the time, place, and manner of licensed adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries, provided that such rules do not make the dispensary’s operation unreasonably impracticable, a decision that would be made by the Executive Director of the Office of Cannabis Management.

The document embedded below was created by the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) to help share information about what is being considered in Albany. It is a very good source for learning basic information about this important topic.

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In my opinion, we should immediately do two things:

Inter-municipal Committee

We should create an inter-municipal committee comprised of at least one representative from the County, City, Towns and Villages so that we all can get a sense of what each municipality is thinking on the issue. If Chemung County does not opt out, it will be very important for the municipalities to coordinate time, place and manner restrictions in a way that makes sense. It will also be important for this group to reach out to neighboring counties to find out what they intend to do.

(To slightly digress, this is a time when it would be great to have a Council of Governments as the infrastructure we need to facilitate these discussions would already exist.)

Citizen Advisory Committee

Chemung County’s Charter gives the Legislature the power to create Citizen Advisory Committees from time to time on important topics in order to better inform lawmakers ahead of a vote. We should establish a Committee comprised of representatives from the fields of health, law enforcement, education, agriculture, business and perhaps others.

This is a very important topic that will possibly come before our community soon and, if not, will almost assuredly surface within the next few years. It’s critical to let your opinions be known as we all begin to work through this.

Christina Sonsire