Scarsdale Opts Out of Cannabis Dispensaries and Lounges and Enacts No-Smoking Laws
- Wednesday, 15 December 2021 16:51
- Last Updated: Friday, 17 December 2021 07:41
- Published: Wednesday, 15 December 2021 16:51
- Joanne Wallenstein
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After extensive study and many lengthy discussions, Scarsdale’s Trustees voted to opt out of the licensing of retail marijuana dispensaries and cannabis smoking lounges within the Village. In addition to banning the sale and consumption sites, they also voted unanimously to enact laws to ban all smoking at Village owned properties including Village buildings, parks, playgrounds, the Scarsdale Pool Complex, parking lot and even inside Village owned vehicles.
Furthermore, smoking is prohibited on streets and sidewalks owned by the Village and in Village business districts.
NYS passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) that legalized the sale and consumption of marijuana in New York in March 2021. It gave municipalities the choice of opting out of dispensaries and consumption lounges before December 31, 2021. Those who opt out before the deadline can choose to opt in at a later date. However, those who fail to opt out by the end of the year, would permit marijuana stores and lounges by default. The Board of the Town of Greenburgh voted to allow dispensaries but not lounges.
Trustees Karen Brew and Lena Crandall piloted the Scarsdale Village Board through the process of gathering information, investigating the actions of neighboring towns and Village and holding public hearings to get feedback.
At several work sessions and a public hearing, the Trustees heard from members of the Drug and Alcohol Task Force, representatives from Scarsdale Family Counseling Service, doctors, health professionals, parents and students who expressed their views on the possible impact of marijuana stores and smoking lounges within the Village.
Though most were concerned about the potential negative impacts on youth and neighborhood character others saw this as a source of additional village revenue and an enhancement for resident smokers.
At the meeting on December 14, Trustees Brew and Crandall , the two who had done the research, spoke in favor of licensing marijuana sales in the Village.
Trustee Brew made this statement:
"My charge as a Trustee is to consider information and make a determination; to avail myself of data and use logic, not preconceived opinions, to make a decision. And I have done that now with this very emotional issue of MRTA. The Board has spent a lot of time listening to the community and debating the issue. Here are some of the key considerations that influence me:
There is much research that shows that prohibition in the 20’s and early 30’s did not limit the amount of alcohol consumed; it only changed the locations of procurement and consumption.
New York State conducted a thorough Cannabis Impact Assessment that considered the health, public safety, criminal justice, economic, and educational impacts of a regulated marijuana program in NYS. This impact assessment involved a public health approach to examining the benefits and risks associated with legalizing marijuana in NYS as compared to maintaining the status quo. They found that Marijuana is easily accessible in the unregulated market and that the status quo has not curbed marijuana use, including among the 12-17 year old population.
The Scarsdale High School Pride Survey proves that out - 17.9% of our high school students have consumed marijuana in the past 30 days. That is almost 1 in 5. That’s a big number; And the data is from pre-legalization! If they want it they will get it. And what they get illegally from drug dealers or on the internet is far more concerning as it can be laced with anything including deadly fentanyl.
People talk about not wanting to increase access by having a dispensary in town. But whether or not their is a dispensary in Scarsdale will not meaningfully impact acess.
As our kids get older, we do not necessarily know the parents of their friends. When your child goes to a friend’s house do we know if they have a secured liquor cabinet or is it free access? Do they have a stash of weed or edibles that the kids can get into? Raiding a home supply is a much easier access than trying to get into a state licensed dispensary in town where they will be seen and will have to have real ids proving they are 21.
The NY State Impact Assessment recognized that Marijuana is easily accessible in the unregulated market. Regulation of marijuana at least benefits public health by enabling government oversight of the production, testing, labeling, distribution, and sale of marijuana.
If a dispensary in town does not impact accessibility, then we are really only talking about messaging. I believe there are much stronger, more direct ways to message the dangers of underage marijuana use to our youth. We need proactive education and some tough conversations to really guide our children on the dangers of alcohol and marijuana on the developing brain; on the fact that substances that are OK for adults and that they see adults buying and consuming are not OK for the underaged. 38% of our high schoolers reported using alcohol in the past 30 days and I doubt they are getting it in Zachy’s. Almost 20% have used marijuana. We have not been able to stop this age group from experimenting with illicit substances. But, we have been able to educate them on dangers. Through in-school programs and guest speakers they are required to attend to get a senior parking pass, they are taught about the dangers of drinking and driving. We need the DATF, the schools and all of us as parents to put this same effort behind the dangers of underaged marijuana use.
Trustee Crandall and I, as co-chairs of the Law Enabler, dug deep into research and data around marijuana legalization and are both leaning towards voting against opting out. Opting out of a cannabis dispensary is like trying to put a bandaid on a gunshot wound. You might feel better that you’ve done something but you’re not solving the problem at all. Let’s look at the data and make unemotional determinations and put our time, energy and resources behind making a real impact where we better can."
Trustee Crandall explained the reasoning behind her vote to permit cannabis sales in the Village. She said, “Education about the risks of drug use is necessary – not prohibiting dispensaries.” She asked “reporters to get the word out that marijuana isn’t safe for kids,” and advised the community to take advantage of the courses available from Scarsdale Family Counseling Service.
She said, “The fact remains that our state has legalized it – the illicit market is inherently dangerous. Adults will appreciate a dispensary – and Scarsdale has the right to impose restrictions….We have the right to control this legal business. We could use the additional tax revenue. If we opt out, we lose out. I will vote no to opting out.”
Trustee Whitestone said, “We went through a valuable process. My decision is to opt out.”
Mayor Veron thanked the community for their input and said she supported the decision to opt out of dispensaries and lounges.
The vote to opt out of marijuana sales passed with yes votes from Trustees Arest, Ahuja, Lewis, Whitestone and Mayor Veron, and no votes from Trustees Brew and Crandall.
On the vote to opt out of cannabis consumption lounges, Trustee Brew explained that she favored the opt out because, “I feel very differently because people are consuming and driving.”
The vote was unanimous to opt out of consumption lounges as well.
New Investment Policy
Trustees passed a new investment policy that requires regular reporting and review of Village investments. The process to revise this policy was led by Trustee Jonathan Lewis who explained that the new policy will “modernize how we conduct our business in the 21st century.” It will require the Village Treasurer to submit quarterly reports of returns and interest rates and to report non-compliance to the Village Manager with a recommended remediation plan. Trustees will meet regularly to discuss investment decisions.”
Trustees agreed to hold a public hearing on an amended law on “Wireless Telecommunications Facilities” on January 11, 2022. You can review the draft of the new law here.
In other business, a drainage easement was passed for 72 Mamaroneck Road where excavation during construction revealed a series of storm drainage pipes traversing the property that serve Mamaroneck and Murray Hill Roads. The easement will allow the Village to service the pipes.
Trustees accepted a $5,000 gift from Experian PLC for the fire department for the purchase of equipment and training for the safety of firefighters.
Trustees approved $28,000 for upgrading of AV equipment to accommodate broadcasting of hybrid remote and in person meetings at Village Hall.
Comments from the Mayor
Mayor Jane Veron made the following comments at the opening of the meeting:
The end of the year is a time for reflection, to take stock of what we accomplished together through resilience, dedication and grit. We simultaneously look backward, acknowledging where we started, and peer into the future, imagining where we hope to be. This year more than most has been one of tremendous transformation in Village government. In a matter of months, there has been swift adoption of a strategic and innovative culture that rewards forward thinking and questions the status quo. Under the leadership of our visionary Village Manager, we’ve experienced a whirlwind of change, embracing new policies and practices, adopting new technologies, and welcoming new personnel.
Tonight, our agenda is packed with signs of these advances. Resolutions on our agenda speak to institutionalizing improved processes for internal controls and investment policy, upgrading technology to facilitate public engagement, and refining code to enable Scarsdale to advance with the times. We’re readying Scarsdale to embrace the new model of 21st century government.
As we close out the year, we also bid farewell to our dedicated public servant Chief James Seymour who has valiantly served our community for 17 years. Chief Seymour has been at the helm of the fire department since 2016. He has seen us through exceedingly difficult times with confidence, calm, and determination. With a deep and abiding commitment to the safety and welfare of our community, Chief Seymour has provided strong leadership to the department, and I know he will be sorely missed. Chief Seymour, thank you for all you have done for our residents.
Thanks also goes to our wonderfully informed and engaged community. You have provided essential feedback to the board on a wide range of matters including marijuana dispensaries and lounges, the no smoking law, telecom code, a dog park, stormwater issues, historical preservation, infrastructure needs, quality of life and recreational desires and so much more. I hope you know how essential your input is to good decision making. We tremendously value hearing from you. With the help of our Advisory Council on Communications, we continue the drive to make updates more accessible and information sharing seamless. Given your engagement, it seems we’re heading in the right direction.
We must also offer gratitude to our public safety and health professionals who continue to lead us through the battle against COVID. SVAC has stepped up in ways we couldn’t have imagined to become a trusted provider of vaccines, boosters, and tests. They have been on the cutting edge, mobilizing to support Scarsdale and the greater community, and we are grateful.
This has been a tumultuous year marked by advances and setbacks, struggles and loss, hope and optimism. I am amazed at how our community has rallied together. We have seen the very best of humanity organizing to support those in need. It is this strength of character and good will that propels us forward and leaves us hopeful for the future.
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season.