P’ville Leaders Call for Plan to Address Recreational Marijuana

School and village leaders discussed possible strategies last week with Pleasantville STRONG about how to protect youngsters should the state legalize recreational marijuana use.

Members from Pleasantville STRONG are urging village officials to discuss potential regulations and legislation regarding marijuana use as New York State inches closer to legalizing recreational marijuana.

During an annual joint meeting of the Village Board and Board of Education last Tuesday, Pleasantville STRONG leaders John Mueller and Nicole Malgarinos shared their concern for local youngsters if recreational marijuana use is legalized. They pressed both boards to huddle with experts to learn how to regulate the substance at the local level.

“The only thing I would ask the trustees specifically is not to wait until the county decides what restrictions they’re going to put on the legalization of marijuana,” Mueller said. “What we need you guys to do is to do your jobs and be creative about the best way we can legislate this to make sure that our kids are safe and make sure it’s not readily accessible until they’re old enough and well-equipped enough to make their own decisions.”

Mueller added that the focus of marijuana legalization needs to be on adolescent wellness and protecting children. This should not be readily accessible to a nine-year-old, he said.

Medicinal marijuana is legal in New York for patients who are certified by medical practitioners as having serious diseases and conditions, including cancer, AIDS, severe chronic pain and other ailments. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed the Compassionate Care Act in 2014 to legalize medicinal marijuana use, has said previously that the benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana outweigh the risks.

Recently, Cuomo concluded a series of listening sessions that offered advice on different legislative and regulatory approaches to legalization with a goal to draft a bill that lawmakers can consider next year.

Malgarinos said the coalition is ready to provide experts to both boards to help frame local legislation regarding licensing and retail regulations. She said the coalition has been analyzing data from Colorado and Oregon, which have seen an uptick in marijuana use since both states legalized the substance.

“Retail marijuana is coming, it’s here. It feels like an inevitability,” she said. “It is such a complex issue that we are not even sure what the problems are going to be until they arise.”

Malgarinos added that the coalition is working toward preventative measures to promote information sharing and sustainable prevention programs. She pressed both boards to sit down and start having conversations about the future.

“We are prepared, along with student assistance services, to provide those experts to the school board and village board whenever they’re ready to have those conversations,” Malgarinos said. “We know that prevention works so it’s important to think about prevention, mental health and wellness initiatives.”

Board of Education President Angela Vella said the board is researching methods to pass resolutions against legalizing marijuana. Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter said they are using research-based conversations to make decisions.

“It is certainly an era of inevitability, so we need to not only state the case but hope for the best and plan for the worst,” Mayor Peter Scherer said.

School Trustee Louis Conte expressed concern with the possibility of the legalization of marijuana at the height of the opioid epidemic while Trustee Shane McGaffey urged the boards to work together to craft a resolution.

“Adulthood is adulthood,” Fox-Alter said. “But a child only gets one opportunity to be a child and the most we can do is protect them. We have to protect them.”