Republicans in the state Legislature are calling for a ban on smoking and consuming cannabis in public places in New York as the legal marketplace is taking hold.
The measure, backed by state Sen. George Borrello and Assemblyman Michael Novakhov, would allow local governments to put local laws in place to ban the public consuming of marijuana.
“State residents, including children, are now regularly assailed with the pungent odor of marijuana on public sidewalks, in parking lots and other public spaces," Borrello said. "Many New Yorkers don’t want to be exposed to either the effects of marijuana smoke or its smell and don’t want their children subjected to it."
New York first legalized cannabis in 2021, though the marketplace for legal retail sales has been slow to build. Lawmakers who supported legalization have framed it around the need to reverse the enforcement of previously harsh marijuana laws that were previously in place.
State lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this year moved to address the sale of cannabis without a license through civil fines and the potential closure of businesses.
Regulators are also trying to encourage further legal cannabis sales, including allowing sales at public events.
Republicans want fines of up to $125 for consuming marijuana in a public space. The Clean Air Act, as well as local bans on smoking, already place limits on marijuana smoking in public.
But Borrello, a Western New York Republican, believes the use of marijuana in public spaces goes beyond the tobacco comparison.
“There is a world of difference between tobacco consumption and marijuana use, which is why it is inappropriate to apply the same public usage rules," he said. "Marijuana has THC, a potent psychoactive drug that causes a ‘high’ and can result in cognitive and motor impairment, similar to alcohol. Individuals in this condition, on sidewalks or other public places, represent a potential hazard to themselves or others. That is why the same public consumption restrictions that apply to alcohol should apply to marijuana."