SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — Town and village officials enlisted the aid of cannabis industry advocates for a presentation about how New York’s legalization of recreational marijuana is expected to unfold over the next two years.
The Monday session attracted an audience of 33 people to the Kiwanis Ice Area, and town Police Chief Joseph Sinagra said the new regulations amount to a paradigm shift for law enforcement.
“I just spent 34 years of my … career arresting individuals for possession of marijuana, whether it was a bud, a roach or whether it was a 50-pound bag,” Sinagra said.
But with legalization now a done deal, the chief said he has put aside his objections to the change and is focusing on how legalization will impact Saugerties residents.
“What I am excited about is we can be part of the conversation … so that we can create [local regulations] that will make it safe for our community, [including] people that don’t want any part of it,” Sinagra said.
Ruben Lindo, a Saugerties native and chief executive officer of Phoenix Nutraceutical, which is involved in marijuana licensing and regulation in the U.S. and Canada, told Monday’s audience that problems regarding pot use have arisen because consumers lack sufficient information.
“People in New York City are going crazy, [saying], ‘All I smell is weed on the streets,’” he said. “That’s because we didn’t do a good job educating consumers.”
“Educated consumers make a sophisticated marketplace,” Lindo said. “You know who did that the best? Dell computer. Before Dell came out, we didn’t know anything about laptops unless you worked at IBM. But Dell made a consumable product that you can use, and that’s where the education comes from.”
Under New York’s marijuana legalization law, signed last month, persons age 21 and older can now possess up to 3 ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of cannabis concentrates in the state, and they can smoke marijuana wherever it is permissible to smoke tobacco. Regulations for the sale of marijuana in New York still are being worked out.
Municipalities in New York have until the end of the year to opt out of allowing marijuana shops within their borders. The town and village of Saugerties have not yet taken a position.
Communities that led the deadline pass without action will not be allowed to ban such shops but still will be allowed to regulate where they can operate.
Town of Saugerties Supervisor Fred Costello supports allowing the shops but expects zoning rules will dictate their allowable locations.
“The zoning that we’re contemplating would leave room for as many as four … establishments townwide,” though not near schools or religious institutions, Costello said.
Also, the state law prohibits the sale of marijuana by businesses that already sell tobacco or alcohol.
Village of Saugerties Mayor Bill Murphy expressed less certainty about whether the village might allow or opt out of pot sales.
Town and village officials plan to hold a Nov. 18 videoconference meeting to further discuss the issue.