The feeling of city of Batavia leaders and the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office is that the law legalizing recreational marijuana use by adults needs to be studied.
City Manager Rachael Tabelski said the city Police Department and management staff are reviewing the legislation that was enacted Wednesday after being signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“While there are many different facets to the law, including local decision-making on retail and zoning, enforcement, education, etc. a comprehensive review must be conducted,” Tabelski told The Daily News Friday. “Certainly, this law will change the way the city operates in terms of cannabis enforcement, investigations and education. With each new law New York state or the federal government enacts, the Batavia Police Department adjusts accordingly their policies and procedures but remain steadfast in their commitment to serve the community and keep residents safe.”
Orleans County Sheriff Christopher Bourke said this law represents a new situation for everyone. He said there will be a state Sheriff’s Association meeting later this month and that the association will review the law.
“There are so many questions,” he said, noting this is a new situation for everyone.
Bourke said at the county Sheriff’s Office, he does not allow of his staff, whether the employees are sworn officers or civilian employees, to come to work impaired. With the marijuana being legal, he said, “The problem is determining what is impaired and what is not impaired, and who is going to write that definition.
“If you smoke a couple of joints, is that considered impaired? I don’t know,” he said.
Departmental rules and regulations with respect to public sector employees will have to be reviewed and adjusted based on the new law.
“It is not clear at this time how use of marihuana by employees, will be treated. It will be considered a legal activity outside of work so employers will be taking a look at this,” he said.
The law, Bourke said, will have a negative effect on society.
“There are many difficulties facing sheriffs with this new legislation. The increase in impaired drivers on the highways will have a negative effect on traffic safety,” Bourke said. “Other states that have these marijuana laws in place are experiencing increases in Emergency Room visits, highway traffic deaths, drastic increase in black market, out-the-back-door sales of marijuana to avoid the tax and many other negative issues in society.”
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act immediately expunges previous marijuana-related convictions from New Yorkers’ records. Legalization will include a 13 percent cannabis excise tax, with 4 percent split between the county of sale — 1 percent — and 3 percent slated for the municipality of the dispensary.
Nine percent of the sales price will go to the Cannabis Revenue Fund, which will be used to fund the Office of Cannabis Management and cover the costs of state agencies to apply and adapt to the MRTA. After administrative costs, 40 percent will go to the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, 40 percent will support general education through the State Lottery Fund and 20 percent will be allocated to the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund.
Medina Police Chief Chad Kenward said he doesn’t agree with its legalization. He said it would affect the department as far as maintaining safety on the road in regard to impaired drivers.
“There is no system or device to detect the amount of marijuana in a person’s system at this point in time,” he said, explaining there are sensors which can give police a rough idea for the amount of alcohol in a person’s system, but there is nothing on the market which can give that information for marijuana. As a result, they need to rely upon drug recognition officers, which is an extensive and expensive training and currently there is only one certified drug recognition officer in Orleans County.
Albion Police Lt. David Mogle is also worried about a higher fatality rate with car accidents under the influence.
“Other states have had a high volume of fatalities based off of being under the influence of cannabis,” he said. “I really hope they implement things or give more funding for enforcement in that sense, so that we can keep the streets safe.”
Mogle said he read through the whole law, and said the legalization is obviously being done for the purpose of taxation and to generate revenue. As far as a police department, they’ve dealt with bail reform and justice reform, and as things change, they change with it.
“I hope (it doesn’t affect police resources),” he said, adding they really won’t know until it happens. “I really hope it doesn’t because we’re having a hard time hiring and obviously keeping officers on the job just because of the flavor of what is going on in the country. That’s making it more difficult, so I really hope it doesn’t affect staffing because I don’t know if we can find anymore.”
As for himself, Mogle said he doesn’t partake in marijuana, but what people do in their own home it’s up to them. If it’s legal now, it’s legal. He’s just there to enforce the law.
(Includes reporting by Mallory Diefenbach)