Two years ago, the state Legislature wisely approved the use of recreational marijuana in New York.
People at least 21 years of age may possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis or up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis in public. Individuals also may smoke marijuana anyplace that cigarette smoking is allowed.
In addition, the law authorizes people to sell recreational marijuana. Provisions for dispensaries and licenses were established last year.
The state and participating municipalities stand to earn considerable tax revenues through the legal sale of recreational marijuana. Communities were given the option of deciding whether they would allow dispensaries within their borders.
One concern is how to deal with people who lack the proper credentials to sell marijuana. Officials in the village of Massena are raising this question and want to hear from state authorities on how to proceed.
“Village officials are waiting to hear back from the state to discuss what Mayor Gregory M. Paquin believes are multiple illegal marijuana dispensaries operating within the village limits. … Trustee Kenneth J. McGowan said the Code Enforcement Office has been working on draft cannabis code language to address dispensaries in the village,” according to a story published April 1 by the Watertown Daily Times. “Trustees had adopted a resolution in October 2021 that authorized cannabis dispensaries in the village, but not on-site consumption. However, those operating in the village have not received official authorization by the state to do business. Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul has proposed legislation that would give New York authorities expanded power to shut down illegal pot shops and levy fines of up to $200,000. The new bill would give the state Office of Cannabis Management and state tax officials new powers to crack down on unlicensed activity. The cannabis office would have expanded authority to seize illicit products and establish procedures for the government to shut down unlicensed businesses. Violations could lead to fines of $200,000 for illicit cannabis plants or products, and businesses could be fined $10,000 a day for selling cannabis without a license.”
There is an added wrinkle with the situation in Massena. Some businesses have created establishments along the long disputed “Massena Square mile.” The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in Akwesasne has laid claim to this land.
Massena officials said they haven’t heard all that much from state authorities on how to address their concerns. This is unfortunate but not surprising. Representatives of New York’s government have earned a reputation for taking their time in responding to questions and providing answers of limited value.
The state Office of Cannabis Management should work with the village of Massena to address the concerns raised by the unlicensed shops. The state last year awarded the initial round of conditional adult-use retail dispensary licenses, so we understand that staff members of the office are quite busy right now.
However, the village needs direction on how to deal with the shops that are operating without licenses. The longer this situation goes on without being addressed, the more likely it is that other unauthorized shops will open.
We supported the state’s plans to permit the use and sale of recreational marijuana. But it’s vital to establish and enforce rules. Massena deserves answers to its questions, and New York authorities should return their calls on this.
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