According to the Rockefeller Institute tracker, about 400 municipalities in New York state have opted to block marijuana dispensaries and/or consumption sites as the Dec. 31 deadline to do so gets closer.  

Capital Tonight asked Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes if she was expecting that number of communities to opt-out. 

“Absolutely. I did anticipate that there would be some municipalities and elected representatives who, one, don’t understand the plant, and two, don’t understand it to the extent that their constituencies may understand it,” Peoples-Stokes said. “There is an option for constituents, should they choose, to do a citizen referendum to change the thought-processes of their local representatives.”

Peoples-Stoke believes that many communities will re-think their opposition when licenses are distributed and the legal business of selling marijuana becomes established.

Another issue for communities is that regulations around recreational marijuana have not yet been released. Peoples-Stokes said that the board in charge of these regulations is working “feverishly” to both hire staff and draw up regulations.

“They have to combine agencies. They have to move people from the Agriculture Department to the Office of Cannabis Management. And they have to put a staff in place,” she explained.

As for a timeframe, the majority leader said she didn’t know, but is “hopeful for springtime."

Regarding her top legislative priorities, People-Stokes told Capital Tonight that she is focused on accountability in education and distribution of environmental justice resources,.

“It’s critical that equity businesses are at the top of food chain in the cannabis industry, so I’m going to stay focused on that," she said.

Peoples-Stokes, who has already endorsed Kathy Hochul for governor, said she is also excited for the next session because Hochul will have the opportunity to do a demonstration project “to demonstrate to all New Yorkers that leadership can come from different geographical areas and be very supportive and quite qualified.”