WARSAW — No decision has been made by village officials on whether to allow legalized marijuana sales.
Under state law, cities, towns, and villages have until Dec. 31 to opt out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses within their jurisdictions. If nothing is done they are automatically opted in.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo legalized adult-use cannabis — also known as marijuana, or recreational marijuana — on March 31. Warsaw is among the municipalities statewide considering the issue.
“People are welcome to come in and voice their opinions and that is what we need to hear before we make a decision,” said Mayor Joseph Robinson.
Residents had a chance to voice those opinions at Monday’s Village Board meeting. Only three people came to speak out on the issue.
“I would like to ask that the village opt out for the time being to gather more information,” said resident Val Duell.
What’s unknown is how legalized marijuana would impact village residents and business. Some say the best option is to opt out of the law now and then opt in at a later time.”
Becky Ryan — who also serves as town supervisor and chairwoman of the Wyoming County Board of Supervisors — also spoke, but only in her capacity as a village resident and business owner.
“Why not opt out now and weigh all of the possible impacts when you still have the option to opt in later?” she said. “I respectively ask the board to opt out of retail sales and on site consumption establishments.”
Also unclear is if people would be able to smoke marijuana is the same places as they smoke cigarettes.
“Since there are no restrictions on smoking tobacco on the sidewalks, in front of existing businesses, likewise smoking or vaporizing of cannabis can not be prohibited,” Ryan said.
The Village has not set a time or date for a decision, Robinson said. But if it opts in, he said, it would work much the same as the current open container law.
“The way that I would hope if there were to be a local law is that you would treat it like an open container law,” he said. “Where alcohol is not allowed on the street, you can not walk down the street with a beer in your hand. You should not be allowed to walk down the street with a joint in your hand.”
Although he does not walk down the street smoking marijuana, Warsaw resident Tim Regan said opting in would be a big benefit to the area.
“I have been smoking weed since the 1970s, so I am real happy that it is legal,” he said. “A weed store right here in Wyoming County would be great.”
It is something that Regan says would not only be a great for residents but also for the local economy.
“For those who are against, it would generate a lot of revenue and people are going to smoke weed anyway,” he said. “Why send them someplace else to buy the weed and generate revenue for that county? Not that I am against other counties but why not have a weed store right here in Wyoming County?”
Also in support of it was local resident Bill Stelmack.
“I think there is benefits to it,” he said. “From what I understand it can help people that are in need. One way that I look at is alcohol is legal and I think smoking pot is a little less intensive than alcohol but that is just my opinion.”
Along with opting in, Stemack said there should be age restrictions and other guidelines in place, much like for the sale of cigarettes and alcohol.
In addition to hearing from residents, Robinson said he is also waiting to see what those guidelines from New York State might be.
“We have been in contact with the village attorney,” he said. “He is guiding us along through the process up to this point and at this point he has advised us that we have more time to see what comes down from the state. The last administration was not particularly active in getting the law into effect. This administration seems to be more interested in moving forward and putting some guidelines into effect and that is what we really want to see, are some guidelines.”
One guideline that resident Mike Ortner would like to see is getting marijuana gummies, which taste like candy, out of the hands of children.
“We know the biggest problem is kids are getting into the stuff when their brains are developing and gummies are opening up a door to that and the government should regulate them for kids,” he said.
But much like drinking, others said when it comes to smoking, people need to be responsible.
“I really don’t care but some people if they can handle it, they can handle it,” said Brian Buitschako, “In all due respect with everything, you need to drink responsibly and to smoke responsibly that is it, simple as that.”
Those interested in voicing their opinions on the village’s marijuana issue are welcome to contact the village office at (585) 786-2120, while local officials gather information and decide if they are going to opt in or opt out.
“We will know, I think, when we feel that we have enough information to make a decision,” Robinson said.