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Be Careful With On-Site Marijuana Consumption

Elected officials throughout Chautauqua County have the rest of the year to decide whether or not allow marijuana dispensaries or on-site consumption businesses to open.

Dispensaries may make sense. If marijuana is legal, local governments may see an interest in marijuana sellers looking to open in previously empty storefronts.

A more difficult decision may come with businesses that would allow on-site consumption. We would hope that those who would visit a marijuana lounge would also use ride-sharing or call a cab to get home — but most will agree that isn’t likely.

The limitations the state Legislature placed on police trying to prove that someone is driving under the influence of marijuana do raise serious questions about how well police officers can try to enforce traffic safety. There is no roadside test to detect if a driver has smoked marijuana. If a police officer doesn’t see or smell marijuana, and the driver doesn’t admit to ingesting marijuana, then there is no way to make an arrest. Edible marijuana products muddy those waters even further. And, in regard to marijuana lounges, how does one serve as a designated driver if they go inside the lounge with their friend? It’s much easier to serve as a designated driver in a bar than a marijuana lounge.

It’s too early now to say if on-site use of marijuana makes sense in Chautauqua County’s cities, towns and villages. But, in our opinion, this is not a decision that should be rushed, and there should be significant public discussion on the issue before a decision is made. There are going to be people who feel strongly on both sides of the debate over on-site marijuana consumption — and those discussions should inform the decisions our local boards make.

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