Future of recreational marijuana in Nassau unclear

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What the legalization of adult-use marijuana means in Nassau County remains unclear. (Photo courtesy of Nassau County District Attorney)

New York State may have legalized the adult use of cannabis, but its future on the North Shore area and in Nassau County as a whole is unclear.

Under legislation passed last week, cities, towns and villages may opt out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses by passing a local law by December 31, or nine months after the effective date of the legislation, but will not be able to opt out of adult-use legalization.

New Yorkers can now possess and smoke marijuana if they are over the age of 21, but the establishment of an Office of Cannabis Management and a comprehensive regulatory framework means that sales are expected to begin sometime in 2022. The state claims that tax collections from the adult-use cannabis program are projected to reach $350 million annually and that the new industry could create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs across the state.

“For generations, too many New Yorkers have been unfairly penalized for the use and sale of adult-use cannabis, arbitrarily arrested and jailed with harsh mandatory minimum sentences. After years of tireless advocacy and extraordinarily hard work, that time is coming to an end in New York State,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week before signing the legislation.

“Legalizing adult-use cannabis isn’t just about creating a new market that will provide jobs and benefit the economy – it’s also about justice for long-marginalized communities and ensuring those who’ve been unfairly penalized in the past will now get a chance to benefit.”

The villages of North Hills and Manorhaven have already passed legislation barring marijuana, but neither law mentions retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses and would have to be altered or see new legislation passed. 

In 2019, Nassau County legislators voted unanimously to opt out of the sale or use of recreational marijuana if the state legalizes it, but that legislation does not mention dispensaries or licenses either.

County Executive Laura Curran said at the time that she was in favor of opting out.

“Over the past several months I have personally received input from community leaders, school leaders, village officials and health-care professionals as well,” Curran said at her 2019 State of the County address. “So, tonight I am announcing that I will not support recreational marijuana sales in Nassau County.”

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