Some WNY counties would consider opting out of legalization of marijuana sales


Lawmakers in at least two Western New York counties are expected to consider a ban on retail marijuana sales if the state legislature approve Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan and legalizes the drug recreationally.

In his State of the State address Tuesday, Cuomo, a Democrat, released details on his proposal to legalize pot. It includes an option for counties to opt out of allowing retail sales of the drug.

“Absolutely, we’ll have to consider that,” said Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello, a Republican. “Our county legislature would have to consider that. But we have to wait until we have a clear indication from the (state) legislature and ultimately (know) what the policies will be.”

Robert Bausch, the chairman of the Genesee County Legislature, who is also a Republican, indicated his body will also examine the issue. He noted, however, that it hasn’t been reviewed yet.

“We will wait and see what the final legislature looks like and then begin deliberation on the issue,” Bausch said.

As expected, Governor Cuomo renewed his support for legalizing recreational marijuana this year in his address on Tuesday. He included the plan in his budget proposal.

“We had an expert group, state police and Department of Health, came together,” Cuomo said during his State of the State. “They did a report. They said the benefits outweighed the risks.”

But not everybody is on board, including Larry Karp. He is the organizer of Parents Against Legalizing Marijuana. He wanted to hear the governor give more details on the enforcement of proposed marijuana laws.

“Somebody who keeps endangering kids constantly, or says ‘I’m going to endnager kids. I’m going to endanger anybody I feel like because I want to smoke my weed anywhere I want.’ They need to be stopped,” Karp said.

Under the governor’s proposal, counties would only have the option to opt out of legalizing retail sites. They would not be able to opt out of laws legalizing personal use of marijuana. Borrello indicated that could complicate the decision-making process.

“Essentially then, we’re going to be saying no to any revenue,” Borrello said. “But we’re going to have to deal with the financial impacts and social impacts of having people consume marijuana in our county.

“If all we’re doing is banning retail sales, we will still have to deal with all of the law enforcement and other issues that are going to come along with the legalization of recreational marijuana.”

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