North Castle officials are girding themselves for the state legislature’s anticipated legalization of recreational marijuana by preparing a local law to tightly regulate its sale within the town.
Town Board members reviewed a draft of their legislation at the Feb. 26 work session, a proposed measure that closely mirrors last February’s passage of their law pertaining to the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products.
Supervisor Michael Schiliro said there has been consensus on the board since last year that whatever legal steps officials could take to limit the sale and availability of marijuana would be welcome. However, since it was unclear what the final form of any state legislation would be, they held off pursuing the local law to regulate marijuana.
“We had the most concern for our school-age children throughout the town,” Schiliro said. “We wanted to take whatever legislative action we could.”
While the exact language of a state law remains uncertain, the board hopes to quickly move forward with its zoning regulations whenever legalization occurs.
Under the draft of North Castle’s law, any proprietor looking to sell cannabis would have to obtain a permit from the Town Board. The law would also require that any establishment must be at least 500 feet from a residential district and a marijuana business must not be in a building that includes residential use.
Furthermore, a school, house of worship, community center, daycare center, park, hospital, drug or alcohol treatment facility or psychiatric treatment center must be at least 500 feet away from a business selling marijuana. Stores selling the product must also be at least 500 feet apart.
The town plans to require an alarm system, video surveillance and extra security lighting for any marijuana store. There will also be specific hours of operation.
Originally, the draft of the local law prohibited hours sales from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. but the board hopes to further restrict the time a business can operate, possibly as narrow as 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto said similar to the town’s e-cigarette and vaping product regulations that were passed last year, the legislation is in reaction to what many residents have communicated to the board.
“I think our decision reflected not so much our personal feelings but reflected what we are hearing from the community, and as the supervisor just mentioned, protecting our residents who have children in school,” DiGiacinto said. “We’re very, very concerned about this.”
Town Attorney Roland Baroni explained that in the state’s latest draft legislation, it pre-empts most municipalities from opting out. Currently, only counties and large cities will have the right to ban marijuana sales, he said.
Board members had other questions, such as whether the town could prevent someone from ingesting the product on the street or in public and prohibiting the sale near pizzerias, candy stores and other establishments that are frequently visited by schoolchildren.
“It all comes down to how is the state going to regulate it,” said Director of Planning Adam Kaufman, who helped draft the proposed ordinance. “If they regulate it like tobacco, then you’re allowed to smoke it outside. If it’s regulated like alcohol, you can’t.”
Another potential restriction the board raised was whether they could limit a marijuana business from operating within 500 feet of any other business.
Some of the additional questions the board had last week will be posed to state Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers) and Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains).
“These are things that we need to get on paper and communicate to our state representatives, that we want to have the ability and flexibility to pass what we’re basically showing them,” Schiliro said. “So keep that in mind when they potentially pass this bill into law that we’ve got some flexibility on how we can regulate it.”
Baroni cautioned the board that it appears the town’s authority is limited to where the outlets selling marijuana can open.
“All we can do, as I understand it, is regulate where the stores can be located,” he said. “Once the product is purchased, I don’t think we can regulate where it’s consumed.”