Bill would ban cannabis consumption in public places

ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — New York is one of 23 states that legalized recreational cannabis use. As the state continues opening dispensaries, Republican lawmakers have proposed a bill to prohibit smoking in public. Some say, the bill doesn’t stand a chance.  

“Today’s marijuana is not your grandfather’s pot,” said sponsor of the bill, Senator George Borrello. Right now, smoking pot is allowed anywhere you can smoke tobacco. Borrello’s bill would ban the consumption or smoking of cannabis in public places unless a municipality opts in.

He said since marijuana has become decriminalized, he’s received countless complaints from constituents about the smell and public intoxication. “So this is about creating essentially an open container law like you have for alcohol only for marijuana and I think it’s desperately needed right now,” said Borrello.

Last year, the Governor signed a bill to ban smoking cigarettes and marijuana in public parks and beaches. This includes boardwalks, marinas, playgrounds and rec centers. Smoking at these places could result in a fine of $50, but Borrello said, this doesn’t go far enough. “New York State government is basically saying it’s okay to be high and drive, it’s okay to be stoned at work … you wouldn’t tolerate someone walking down the street chugging a bottle of vodka, why should we allow someone to walk down the street getting stoned?”

Cannabis Attorney Jeffrey Hoffman said he can understand why lawmakers are looking to put restrictions in place. “I do think members of the public that aren’t cannabis consumers and aren’t into these things, don’t want cannabis smoking everywhere, they don’t want it around kids, they don’t want it in any of these places,” he said.

But Hoffman said this legislation would discriminate against groups who have historically been discriminated against. “I’m gonna have no problem, smoking cannabis in my apartment building… but people that live in this federally subsidized housing which is a huge, huge, huge number of our fellow citizens right? This is an issue,” he said.

Hoffman does not think the bill will pass as written. Capitol Correspondent, Amal Tlaige reached out to the Office of Cannabis Management for comment, but they do not comment on pending legislation.

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