Rockville Centre mayor, board speak out against marijuana legalization


As state officials consider legalizing marijuana for recreational use in New York, Mayor Francis X. Murray and village trustee Michael Sepe denounced the idea at a village board meeting earlier this month.

Their response came after resident Liz Boylan, who is against the legalization of recreational marijuana, urged the board to take measures before any state law comes into effect, and was backed by Ruthanne McCormack, project coordinator of the Rockville Centre Coalition for Youth.

“We don’t need another legal drug, we have too many,” Murray agreed. “We don’t need it. We don’t want it.”

Sepe noted that the village’s zoning code prohibits head shops — a store specializing in cannabis and tobacco paraphernalia.

It is legal to use marijuana recreationally in nine states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an organization that offers a science-based approach to marijuana policy, released a study in March that showed that states that have legalized the drug are leading the nation in past-year marijuana use among every age group.

Among those states, Colorado, which limits possession and consumption of marijuana to those 21 and older, currently holds the lead for first-time marijuana use among youth aged 12 to 17, representing a 65 percent increase since legalization.

Sepe said Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana use in 2014, has experienced a “spike” in traffic-related deaths due to driving under the influence of marijuana.

The village did not respond to the Herald’s request to speak with Police Commissioner James Vafeades for this story.

Sepe added that the concentration of THC in marijuana is higher today than in the past. “It’s trendy, it’s a fad, it’s very hip to be in favor of this,” he said. “Politically, it’s very easy.”

However, he noted that if the state legalizes marijuana, “I frankly don’t know what the village will have the power to do.

“It’s very unusual for an activity to be legalized on a state-level and to have local municipalities restrict it or ban it,” Sepe continued. “That’s something that is not realistic to happen under state law.”

Village spokeswoman Julie Scully said the village is simply waiting to see if the state legalizes recreational marijuana before considering anything. “Nobody could give a meaningful answer to that hypothetical without knowing the facts,” she said, “and those facts do not presently exist.”