More than 400 towns and villages across New York have opted to block local marijuana dispensaries and consumption lounges as a statewide deadline to do so nears, with many officials deciding to stay out of the upcoming market until regulators provide more clarity.
The law that legalized recreational marijuana in New York this year gives municipalities until Dec. 31 to “opt out” of hosting dispensaries or on-site consumption lounges once retail sales start in a year or so. Localities cannot ban legalized possession.
With three weeks left to act, more than a quarter of the New York’s towns and 31% of its villages had voted to become the cannabis equivalent of dry towns when it comes to dispensaries — at least initially. Numbers were slightly higher for consumption sites. Relatively few cities have officially opted out, and none of the state's largest ones, according to an online tracker maintained by the Rockefeller Institute of Government.
Passage of the legalization law in March prompted local debates around the state, with residents touting the lifestyle and economic benefits of dispensaries facing off against people opposed to pot sales in their hometowns.
“We are concerned that dispensaries in our neighborhoods will normalize the use of marijuana even further than it already is,” said Anita Seefried-Brown of the Watertown-based Alliance for Better Communities, which is focused on reducing underage substance abuse.