County Leaders Weigh In On Marijuana Debate

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With Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo continuing to push legal recreational marijuana use and retail sales for the state of New York, Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello said he would be interested in the county opting out of legal retail sales of the drug.

Cuomo said that future legislation would allow county and city governments to choose whether to allow retail sales within their boundaries. He mentioned in his recent State of the State address that statewide legalization would raise an estimated $300 million per year from taxes.

Borrello noted that he has concerns regarding the potentially negative impacts on social welfare, law enforcement and local business legal marijuana might have. The Chautauqua County Legislature would likely have to vote to have the county opt out of a state law legalizing retail marijuana sales.

“Our communities and businesses are already heavily burdened,” Borrello wrote in a letter to Stephen Acquario, the executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. “Adding legalized marijuana into the mix will have more negatives than positives for management and enforcement.”

He cited a need for control over the drug similar to rules on alcohol use if marijuana is legalized. Borrello said marijuana should not be used in public as an “open container” and should be prohibited in establishments that have a liquor license. The county executive said he also opposed the selling of marijuana-laced foods since children could be attracted to products such as desserts and candies. He also wrote that marijuana use in any public assembly should also be illegal.

County legislators have mixed feelings on the subject and how marijuana could impact residents and the local economy. Most expressed a need to talk with each other in further discussion this year to come to a consensus on how Chautauqua County should handle marijuana legalization if it passes. Currently, medicinal marijuana is legal in New York. If recreational marijuana becomes legal in the state, New York could become the 11th state to do so, preceeding Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, Alaska, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

See Friday’s edition of The Post-Journal for more reactions from local lawmakers.