New Legislation in NY Could Prohibit the Public Use of Marijuana

Back in July, New York State Senator George Borrello introduced legislation that would prohibit the smoking and consumption of marijuana in public places, unless specifically authorized by the locality. 

According to a press release, this legislation comes after Sen. Borrello received complaints from concerned residents about the increase in public pot consumption. “State residents, including children, are now regularly assailed with the pungent odor of marijuana on public sidewalks, in parking lots, and other public spaces. Many New Yorker’s don’t want to be exposed to either the effects of marijuana smoke or its smell and don’t want their children subjected to it,” he said.

More Control Over Public Marijuana Consumption

Here is precisely what will happen if Senate Bill 7604 goes through:

  • Public marijuana use would be prohibited, although cities and towns would be able to enact ordinances regarding whether and where marijuana could be publicly consumed.
  • There will be a $125 fine for violations of the law.

“The ultimate goal is to have less smoking in public, but we are dealing with two factions where. On one hand, people don’t want it around them or their children. The other faction is saying it’s a legal substance, so why can’t we smoke it in public,” Ryan McCall, cannabis attorney at Tully Rinckey, said.

Enforcing the Legislation Could Be an Issue

While this legislation can definitely help reduce the amount of New York residents smoking marijuana in public, McCall warns that one issue will be regularly enforcing this law. How can police officers, who are already overworked, enforce this law and what is their obligation to enforce it? 

There will be a $125 fine for any violations, but the amount is so small that it may only deter a certain number of residents. People will be less likely to follow the law if they know the repercussions aren’t that serious.

Comparing Marijuana to Tobacco

In the release, Sen. Borrello noted that equating tobacco smoking with marijuana use is a false comparison. 

“There is a world of difference between tobacco consumption and marijuana use, which is why it is inappropriate to apply the same public usage rules. Marijuana has THC, a potent psychoactive drug that causes a ‘high’ and can result in cognitive and motor impairment, similar to alcohol. Individuals in this condition, on sidewalks or other public places, represent a potential hazard to themselves or others. That is why the same public consumption restrictions that apply to alcohol should apply to marijuana,” he said. 

The legislation will allow cities and towns to set their own regulations on when and where residents can smoke marijuana, which will hopefully help to keep any uproars at bay from angry New Yorkers. In California, along with some other legal states, cannabis consumption lounges have been popping up quite recently. These lounges may become the new norm for consuming marijuana in public without disrupting others who don’t want to be around the smoke.