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Lynbrook board opts out of marijuana sales

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Citing potential danger to the community, the Lynbrook village board unanimously voted to bar marijuana dispensaries and consumption shops from being built or set up in the village during a public hearing Monday night.

“It comes down to morals when you see overdoses have increased over the last 15 years or more, and when I know that marijuana is a gateway drug to other more serious drugs,” Trustee Laura Ryder said. “We can’t prevent anyone coming into our village with drugs, but we can limit it to a certain extent within our borders.”

She added that it was the board’s “moral obligation” to opt out of selling marijuana in the village, adding “there is no tax revenue that justifies the challenge that we’re facing.”

Ryder said she spoke with several residents who opposed dispensaries in the village, and she could not vote to allow marijuana sales while thinking about parents who have lost their children to drug overdoses or anyone who has children who struggle with drug addiction.

New York state passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, or MRTA, on March 31, but villages, counties and towns can vote to ban sales within their municipalities. New York became the 18th state to legalize marijuana use, and officials formed new agencies within the state government to control it. Lynbrook officials previously discussed opting out of sales last month, but voted on the measure after Monday’s public hearing.

Lynbrook officials had until Dec. 31 to opt out, and can opt in again at any time. The decision is still subject to a permissive referendum, for which any resident seeking to overturn the board’s decision would have to present a petition with signatures from 20 percent of registered voters in the village, of which there are roughly 14,000. Should that happen, the measure would then go to a village-wide vote.

Atkinson said there were two reasons behind state officials voting to allow legal marijuana sales, including to regulate and tax the cannabis industry to generate revenue, as well as to rectify social and economic justice issues. He noted that the way marijuana will be regulated is similar to how New York and other states regulate alcohol sales and consumption.

The new law does not take effect until 2022, and new dispensaries are not expected to come online until mid- to late 2022, and perhaps 2023.

In New York, residents will be able to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana and 24 ounces of concentrated cannabis, and there will be other regulations for oils. An adult 21 and older will also be permitted to cultivate three plants and no more than six per residence if multiple adults live there, but regulations for cultivation of marijuana plants likely will not be completed until the fall. 

Though Lynbrook would have seen a percentage of sales tax from marijuana, officials said they believed that the dangers of permitting marijuana sales in the village outweighed the potential for added revenue.

Smoking marijuana remains outlawed in businesses and places of employment, such as libraries and restaurants, much like cigarettes and vaping are prohibited. Trustee Ann Marie Reardon explained that she did not favor legalization of marijuana for many reasons, including concerns that people would smoke in public places or disturb their neighbors with the smell.

“I don’t want to be walking down Atlantic Avenue or the bike walk at Greis Park and smell that,” she said. “It’s a concern.”

Before the vote, Lynbrook Police Chief Brian Paladino voiced opposition to New York officials’ decision to legalize marijuana, noting that 3 ounces of cannabis equals about 90 joints. He called the sweeping legislation a “money grab” by state officials, and said there was still nothing invented to test motorists for marijuana consumption akin to a Breathalyzer, which measures blood-alcohol level.

“New York state was very serious that they wanted marijuana made legal,” he said. “You’re going to smell it in your backyard. You’re going to smell it everywhere. That’s the reality you’re going to experience.”

The East Rockaway village board opted out of marijuana sales on April 15 and planned to schedule a public hearing to gather resident feedback in June.

“First of all, we don’t want it in our community,” Mayor Bruno Romano told the Herald last month. “Second of all, I grew up in East Rockaway, and I certainly don’t want this happening. This is a quality-of-life issue for all of us. This doesn’t belong here. This will increase crime and becomes a safety issue for everyone.”