Lynbrook village board weighs banning smoking pot in public

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Months after voting to prohibit marijuana sales and dispensaries in the village, Lynbrook officials announced Monday that they will host a public hearing Oct. 18 to discuss banning smoking cannabis in public spaces.

“If you’re in a restaurant and you’ve got the windows open and someone’s smoking marijuana outside, and someone’s blowing smoke right into the restaurant, there are a lot of people who would find that very offensive,” Mayor Alan Beach told the Herald, “and I would for one. If you want to do that in your own house, no one can do anything about that, but don’t subject the residents to that.”

Beach said there have been some complaints from residents about people smoking marijuana in parks and other public spaces, and officials will seek to end the practice later this month after hearing feedback at the hearing. He added that the vote would add language to the village code, and if the board enacts the measure, violators would be ticketed.

Village Attorney Tom Atkinson said that a potential update to the code would be in keeping with the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, which was approved by state officials in 2017 and prohibits smoking and vaping in almost all public and private indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars, to protect workers and the public from exposure to harmful second-hand tobacco smoke and vaping aerosols.

“It’s important to note that we’re not outlawing cannabis in the Village of Lynbrook,” Atkinson said. “We wouldn’t have that jurisdiction under current New York state law. You’re allowed to partake or use cannabis in your private home. What we can do is put this provision in and prohibit it on public-owned and village-owned land.”

In May, the village board unanimously voted to ban marijuana dispensaries and consumption shops from being built or set up in the village after a public hearing, citing potential danger to the community.

New York state passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, or MRTA, on March 31, but villages, counties and towns could vote to ban sales within their jurisdictions. New York became the 18th state to legalize marijuana use, and officials formed new agencies within the state government to control it.

In New York, residents are able to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana and 24 ounces of concentrated cannabis, and there are other regulations for oils. An adult 21 and older is also permitted to cultivate three plants and no more than six per residence if multiple adults live there.

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

“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 before the May vote. “We can’t prevent anyone coming into our village with drugs, but we can limit it to a certain extent within our borders.”

The East Rockaway village board opted out of marijuana sales on April 15 and, after two public hearings this summer, banned dispensaries and sales.

“First of all, we don’t want it in our community,” Mayor Bruno Romano said at the time. “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.”

For Lynbrook, the next step will be a public hearing on Oct. 18, at which the board will hear residents’ opinions on the issue.

“People will be welcome to speak about it and have their opportunity,” Beach said. “The board will then get a chance to vote after hearing public comments.”

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