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Long Beach to consider recreational marijuana

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Following New York State’s legalization of recreational marijuana earlier this week, Long Beach, like other municipalities in the state, will now have the option to either opt-in or out of the sale of marijuana.

When the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was passed, New Yorkers 21 years and older were granted the ability to possess up to three ounces of marijuana at home or in public. However, the legal sale of marijuana will most likely not happen until September 2022, according to legislators. The retail sale of marijuana would be subject to a 9 percent state tax and a 4 percent local tax.

Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy and Rockville Center Mayor Francis Murray have reportedly been vocal about their choice to opt-out of the legal sale of marijuana. The legislation introduces an Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board appointed by the Temporary President of the Senate and a member appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly.

Long Beach, however, has not yet taken a stance on the issue, John McNally, executive assistant to the Long Beach City Manager, said on Tuesday. Adding that the City Council will want to hear feedback from residents before they make a decision. The city has until December 21 to make a choice.

Ron Walsh, Long Beach’s new police commissioner, said at a city council meeting Tuesday night that he has not yet decided on whether to support an opt-in by the city.

“It’s a complex issue,” Walsh said. He said, however, that an opt-in would likely mean the use of more police and ambulance services in case of overdoses.

State Senator Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach Democrat, who voted for the legislation, said that it was important to make sure the legalization of marijuana happens in a safe way.

“I think at this point people want marijuana,” Kaminsky said. “They’re either getting it from the black market or traveling to neighboring states and I think that’s a missed opportunity to improve safety and also help out our state’s economy.”

He said he wanted to make sure that the roads remain safe and that anyone under 21 does not have access to marijuana. Kaminsky added that he thinks there needs to be strict enforcement and stressed that marketing should not be directed to individuals underage.

Judy Vining, executive director of LB AWARE, a local organization dedicated to preventing substance abuse among young people, said she will urge the city council to opt-out of the legal sale of marijuana.

“We certainly have enough of an issue with substance misuse in both our youth and adult population,” Vining said. “Marijuana and alcohol are still the drugs of preference for youth.”

Vining criticized the report and said the bill does not do enough to protect children. She added that there is no legitimate test to determine impairment. A study of technologies for detecting cannabis-impaired driving was proved by the state, which is expected to be submitted to the governor, the State Senate and Assembly by Dec. 31, 2022.

Even though Vining is aware that opting into legal sales can bring revenue, she said the only option the city has to keep the community safe is to opt-out.

“The fear and concern is that Long Beach is already a party city,” Vining said. “If all of the surrounding communities opt-out, where do you think people will come to smoke and purchase.”