By Jade Perez
The Pleasantville Village Board last Monday approved a prohibition on the retail sale of marijuana and associated products within the village as the state legislature grapples with its potential legalization.
The board’s 3-0 vote on Feb. 25, which followed the conclusion of a public hearing, was met with a positive response from the public, including Pleasantville STRONG Coalition Coordinator Nicole Malgarinos. She stressed that the village is no place for the sale of recreational marijuana.
“To add another layer (along with alcohol and tobacco) takes away protective factors, which in terms of the public health model reduces perception of risk and harm and increases access,” Malgarinos said.
Trustees Joseph Stargiotti and David Vinjamuri were not present for the vote, but Mayor Peter Scherer said that they both would have voted in favor of the local law.
While it is unclear whether individual municipalities will have the right to opt out and prohibit marijuana sales should legalization be approved, Scherer said the village has been focused on protecting its youngsters. There has been discussion that only counties and cities of at least 100,000 residents would have that choice.
“Regardless of what may happen at the state level, at least for the moment, our laws would outlaw the retail sale of marijuana,” Scherer said. “There is the possibility that the state would preempt that, but in an effort to get out in front of this we propose to enact this change in our zoning code now,” Scherer said.
With the help of an interactive map, Malgarinos showed all of the areas in Pleasantville where youngsters frequently congregate and said that it’s crucial to guard against exposing them to another potentially addictive substance.
Resident Swamy Sunkara agreed with Malgarinos, saying it’s critical to protect children.
“I have five children…and the area we have is very limited. In the shopping area, we have the new table tennis club, which a lot of kids are joining and playing around,” Sunkara said. “And they don’t go straight there and come back. They walk around. Apart from that, there’s the Soldiers and Sailors (Park) and other places. These are all hangout places for kids. Therefore, it’s a bad idea to bring (marijuana) in here.”
Should the state legislature approve legalizing recreational marijuana, use would still be permitted.
Pleasantville joins North Hempstead on Long Island in prohibiting marijuana sales in anticipation of its legalization this session. Last week, the Town of Hempstead voted to place a one-year moratorium on marijuana sales pending the outcome of any legislation in Albany.
Neighboring communities, including North Castle and New Castle, are also grappling with how to guard their populations, particularly youngsters, from marijuana, and are contemplating legislation by regulating sales through zoning restrictions. Last month, North Castle officials held off taking action until more specifics of the state legislation are known.
State Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro) said he welcomes the recent legislative expression from the Pleasantville Village Board and other communities in the area. The Pleasantville Board of Education also approved a resolution and composed an advocacy letter that is on the school district’s website calling for tight restrictions should recreational marijuana be legalized. It has attracted 150 resident signatures in support as of last week.
Harckham said these actions are “significant contributions to the discussions going on throughout the state regarding the governor’s proposal to legalize and tax marijuana.”
Harckham will hold a forum to discuss concerns regarding the sale and use of recreational marijuana this Friday, Mar. 8 at Mahopac High School at 7 p.m. Anyone from the 40th state Senate District is invited. Mahopac High School is located at 421 Baldwin Place Rd. in Mahopac.