Bill seeks more local control over marijuana | News, Sports, Jobs

Opting out of marijuana sales and consumption was a hot topic for local governments throughout 2021.

Now, a Republican member of the state Assembly has introduced legislation that would allow local governments to regulate where marijuana can be consumed in public places. Assemblymember Marjorie Byrnes, R-Avon, recently introduced A.8803 to amend Section 131 of the state Cannabis Law. The bill has been referred to the Assembly’s Economic Development Committee, where it faces an uncertain future.

The towns of Arkwright, Dunkirk and Pomfret, along with the villages of Fredonia and Sherman and the cities of Dunkirk and Jamestown, all have “opted in” to the state’s plan to allow marijuana dispensaries and smoking lounges. Across the state, 303 municipalities opted in, according to the map legend. A total of 637 municipalities have opted out.

The village of Angola, just inside Erie County, took another option that has not been done in Chautauqua County. Their village board voted to tell the state that they are open to dispensaries that sell for home use only, and do not want the on-site cannabis consumption lounges. The map shows that 82 municipalities across the state took the route that Angola did.

There are currently at least four sites that sell marijuana within half a mile or so of the traffic circle next to the bridge over Cattaraugus Creek that leads into Chautauqua County.

Opting in or out of marijuana dispensaries and lounges is only part of the equation for Byrnes.

She said local governments need to be able to set rules so that the emerging marijuana businesses don’t potentially hurt older downtown businesses.

“It is important to allow municipalities the authority to enact local laws restricting where recreational marijuana can be smoked and/or consumed in public places,” Byrnes wrote in her legislative justification. “Smoking and/or consuming recreational marijuana on a public street in front of businesses or restaurants could deter customers and families from patronizing those businesses. This legislation would allow municipalities the ability to regulate the public smoking and/or consumption of recreational marijuana in the same fashion as municipalities can regulate public possession of open containers of alcohol.”

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