More Than 400 New York Municipalities Opt out of Adult Use Cannabis Sales as Deadline Looms

The deadline for municipalities in New York State to choose whether they will allow retail sales of adult use cannabis is rapidly approaching. To date, approximately 25% of the state’s towns, and 30% of villages, have enacted local laws banning adult use retail dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges within their jurisdictions. So far, none of the state’s largest cities have opted out, and relatively few cities have opted out generally, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government’s online tracker.

Under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), municipalities have until December 31 to opt out of allowing licenses for adult use retail dispensaries and/or on-site cannabis consumption lounges within their communities. Municipalities that opt out before the deadline can reverse the decision at any time, but any municipality that initially permits retail dispensaries and/or consumption lounges cannot opt out after the deadline. Those municipalities that choose to not opt out can still use zoning and other reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions to regulate where dispensaries and/or consumption lounges are located. Municipalities cannot ban legalized possession, and applicants can still obtain other types of licenses, such as those for cultivation, manufacturing, or delivery.

To opt out, a municipality needs to pass a local act or resolution prohibiting said retail cannabis establishments before the end of the year. Fortunately, these laws are subject to permissive referendum governed by the state’s Municipal Home-Rule Law, which means that if the residents in a municipality disagree with the decision of their locality to opt out, they can file a petition requesting a referendum. If enough qualified voters sign the petition, the issue would be put to a municipal-wide vote in a special election, letting the voters decide whether to override the opt-out.

The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) is requesting cities, towns, and villages to submit their local opt out laws on an online portal available on the OCM website. After December 31, the OCM will make available a list of municipalities who have opted out of one or more adult use license types so retail license applicants know which localities are excluded.

Aerial View of Liberty Island, New York

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