By Jade Perez
The Pleasantville Village Board proposed a local law last week that would ban the sale of marijuana and marijuana products should the state move forward with legalization.
As Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature move toward making recreational marijuana legal in New York this legislative session, strong opposition has surfaced in Pleasantville with the intent to protect children.
The board’s proposal, unveiled at the Jan. 28 work session, was met with immediate praise from the public, including Pleasantville STRONG leader John Mueller, who said that is the response the community envisioned.
Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter added that the draft law is an excellent step forward.
“The exponential exposure to another vice to young kids is really hard,” Fox-Alter said. “Between internet access, getting it in all kinds of devices, the vaping that they’re seeing now, the normalization of lots of vices out there is a dangerous road to go down. And the (more) we can do to create protective factors for our kids, the better off it is. So I thank you for the proposed resolution.”
While many who attended last week’s discussion are in favor of a prohibition, some expressed concern. Resident Henry Leyva said if the state approves legalization of recreational marijuana and rejects the local law then it doesn’t help the village.
“It does not. There is the risk of preemption,” Mayor Peter Scherer confirmed. “But I certainly feel it’s the logical step to take now.”
The proposed law comes about a week after the Pleasantville Board of Education approved a resolution that opposes retail marijuana sales.
While the final form of any state legislation is unknown at this point, current drafts would allow counties and cities of at least 100,000 to opt out of allowing retail sales. However, smaller municipalities may not get that choice.
If the resolution were to get overridden, Leyva said the village should explore regulation through zoning, which would enable local officials to specify areas where dispensaries or commercial operations can function.
Although Pleasantville does have the right to zone where retail sales would be acceptable, the draft law states that the small size of the village’s 1.8-square-mile commercial district would make it virtually impossible to keep it away from walking routes used by children, and schools and other locations populated by youngsters.
“Many communities say draw a 1,000-foot radius around schools, child-oriented facilities, churches, daycare centers, etc.,” Scherer said. “By the time you draw all those circles there’s not much left.”
However, Scherer added that if Pleasantville is unable to opt out of retail sales, he would support pivoting toward zoning restrictions.
Jay LaCapria was one of the residents who questioned whether the board has a backup plan to mitigate marijuana’s potential harmful effects.
While there is no specific plan, Trustee Joseph Stargiotti said policing marijuana would be no different than alcohol.
Police Chief Eric Grutzner noted that the department expends a great deal of resources partnering with Pleasantville STRONG and local schools to educate children on illegal substances.
“This is something we take very seriously,” Grutzner said. “We are committed to protecting the kids and making sure we are doing everything we can.”
Scherer said he plans to attend a Feb.11 state legislative meeting in Albany to lobby for municipalities to opt out of retail sales.
The village’s draft resolution asks state lawmakers to make the legal age for purchase 25 years old rather than 21; requiring that purchasers display two forms of identification with at least one containing a photo; barring the sale of marijuana that is edible or can be vaped since these forms are attractive to minors; requiring retail outlets be licensed by the state; requiring licenses to be subject to permanent revocation for a single violation and the offense to be a felony; and requiring that THC levels be limited, regularly tested and identified on child-safe packaging along with guidance on doses and risks.
Pleasantville’s proposed local law also requests the state to reaffirm municipalities’ right to regulate marijuana sales through zoning to minimize negative impacts on children, that review and debate include testimony from independent experts, and that the state legislation be removed from the governor’s executive budget and be a stand-alone law.