Clock Ticking For New York Municipalities To Opt Out Of Marijuana Sales

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BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – The New York law that legalized cannabis allows local municipalities to restrict commercial sales, but time is running out for them to do so.

Possession and use of cannabis is now legal statewide, but retail sales are not expected to begin until next year. State regulators have to write the rules for how marijuana can be legally sold, but towns and cities can decide if they want commercial sales at all.

Gail Hepworth, center, co-owner with her sister of Hepworth Farms in Milton, N.Y., talks with employees as dried hemp is processed, Monday, April 12, 2021. Farmers dealing with depressed prices for plants that produce CBD extract are eager to take part in a statewide marijuana market expected to generate billions of dollars a year once retail sales start. They already know how to grow and process cannabis plants, since hemp is essentially the same plant with lower levels of THC, marijuana’s active ingredient. Now they’re waiting on rules that will allow them to switch seeds. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Sarah Brancatell, legislative director for the New York State Association of Towns, said during a recent webinar that municipalities have a narrow window to ban commercial sales .

“The local law has to be adopted on or before Dec. 31, 2021. That’s coming up really quickly.” Brancarella noted. “It’s like a one or done shot. If you adopt it on Jan. 1, it has no effect.”

Any local law restricting cannabis sales must also be approved by voters in a direct referendum.

Municipalities do not have the power to overturn other provisions of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, such as legalizing the possession and personal cultivation of cannabis.