Legal weed isn’t a high priority for hundreds of New York municipalities.
Nearly half of New York towns don’t want marijuana dispensaries and most are banning consumption lounges, opting out of a multibillion-dollar recreational weed market that is expected to launch later this year, according to a survey.
Of the 1,521 municipalities in the Empire State, 47 percent have said they do not want pot dispensaries. More than half — or 54 percent — don’t want consumption sites, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government.
The state’s largest and most populous cities, including New York, Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany, have all opted into the legal weed market.
Localities where skeptics mobilized opposition to dispensaries and consumption lounges are by and large suburban areas, including most of Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties as well as hundreds of municipalities in upstate and western New York.
Last summer, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that legalizes the recreational use and sale of marijuana.
New York became the 15th state to allow for recreational use of cannabis. The legislation earmarks 40% of revenue generated by the sale of weed to predominantly minority communities.
Under the law, New York will charge a 13% excise tax on marijuana sales, with 9% going to the state and 4% to local governments. The towns and municipalities that opt out will forfeit their 4% share of the excise tax.
Under the new law, towns had until Dec. 31 to opt out. Those that didn’t respond either way were automatically enrolled, thus legally barring them from taking steps to crack down on recreational marijuana.
As the deadline approached, town councils invited residents to have their say. In Hempstead, Long Island, parents expressed concern that allowing recreational marijuana in their town would expose their children to potential harm.
“We do not want to become the sixth borough of New York City,” Hempstead resident Liz Boylan told Gothamist.
“We do not want to see our children put in a hole they cannot get out of.”
But proponents say that allowing for recreational marijuana in their towns could generate investments and attract tourists.
Cities and towns that have accommodated the legal weed industry have also seen a rise in the value of real estate, according to a study by Real Estate Witch. Towns where pot dispensaries operate have seen home values rise by more than $22,000.
Hempstead and hundreds of other councils voted to opt out, though the decision is not permanent. Towns could decide to opt in through either a voter referendum or another vote by their council.
Scores of towns voted to allow dispensaries to operate within their city limits, but refused to permit consumption sites, including Poughkeepsie, Ossining, Kingston, and Orchard Park.
While residents of town that voted no won’t be able to buy marijuana near their homes, they could still legally consume cannabis that they purchase in another jurisdiction.
New York officials estimate that marijuana sales could generate $350 million a year in tax revenue for government coffers and create jobs for residents in disadvantaged communities.
In 2014, Cuomo signed legislation allowing for the use of medicinal marijuana.