Despite legalization, many cities in New York and New Jersey are opting out of retail sales. Photo credit: Twenty20photos.
After years of breaking through century-long stigma and outdated laws, the states of New York and New Jersey finally gained rights to recreational cannabis. As this was a victory for both states, it is only the beginning for cannabis.
Retail is the next step for cannabis to reach the public and most importantly, to be regulated safely. According to The New York Times, these new laws create the opportunity for “retail licenses, paving the way for brick-and-mortar dispensaries where people can purchase cannabis products.”
But, while both state’s legislatures had approved recreational use, each city council can still decide to ban retail sales within their jurisdiction.
As a result, nearly 70% of municipalities in New Jersey alone have decided to ban recreational retail cannabis sales, reports Marijuana Moment. This is despite the fact that a majority of voters in the state approved adult-use cannabis.
In response, Joe Johnson, attorney with the ACLU, told the publication that, “with 67 percent of New Jersey voters saying yes to legalizing cannabis and passage in all but three of New Jersey’s 565 municipalities, the municipalities that have opted out have unfortunately missed an opportunity to carry out the will of the voters,” he added. “We hope for the sake of New Jerseyans that these municipalities take advantage of their freedom to reverse their initial decision and choose to opt in.”
Limitations for New York Retail Sales
In New York, cities, towns, and villages have until Dec. 31st to opt out of the new law. This is prompting heated discussions among local officials, Jane Margolies for The New York Times says. However, New Jersey’s deadline was in August, reports Marijuana Moment.
Although New York City has plenty of support for cannabis sales, many other cities in New York show otherwise. One town that has currently opted out is Watertown, New York, a northern city with a population of 20,000 residents. While many Watertown council members are in favor of cannabis sales (19 out of 26), the council members still agreed to opt-out, reports WWNYTV.
This left many residents of Watertown disappointed as they believe the council did not give it enough consideration.
In response, one resident took to Facebook in hopes of gaining support against the sale ban. Corey Pentoney, the current admin of Marijuana Dispensaries for Watertown NY created the group, which now has over 250 members. The group worked together to gather signatures in a petition against the opt-out of cannabis sales. So far, the signatures total in at 736 names, which the Watertown’s city clerk received.
In addition to this, residents gathered in Watertown’s Public Square to gain extra support and awareness for the cause. One organizer for the group Ryann Star tells Emerald that “it’s particularly important to show, especially the city council, that there are a lot of people out here; and we are not causing problems, we’re just your neighbors.”
Stigma and Safe Access
There is a large amount of stereotypes, inaccurate movie portrays and over all false information on cannabis effects. Society perpetuates these negative perceptions, but they are slowly changing each year. Many cannabis users feel as if cannabis should continue to be normalized in the community and more general knowledge on the medicinal properties of cannabis would help educate residents.
Not to mention, it would give residents a legal and safe means of accessing cannabis. As one local, Joanne Hughes, told WWNYTV, “[…] why wouldn’t you want to keep all of your city residents who do smoke marijuana, give them a safe place to buy marijuana, where it’s controlled?”
In an interview with Starr, he tells Emerald some challenges to getting signatures include finding registered voters. “New York law is pretty specific. Not only do you have to be a registered voter in the local jurisdiction; bu you also have to be registered before the last general election in November.”
Many residents support the legalization cause. However non-registered voters prevent themselves from having a real say in the cannabis market. In a New York Times article on New Yorkers and voting, New York State has a notable disadvantage compared to other states. “New York is one of the few states that doesn’t allow early voting (37 others do). The state also doesn’t have same-day registration.”
Starr also says there was plenty of leg work to get signatures. This included traveling door-to-door and members gathering signatures outside of the local farmers market.
Problems with Dispensary Placements
As more dispensaries open up, dispensary locations will become a factor that affects surrounding residents. This may create a problem of how individuals with disabilities or from poor economic backgrounds may reach these dispensaries, or gain legal access to cannabis.
In a Systematic Review journal-published study, researchers found that medical cannabis use is “more common among individuals who are employed, have health insurance, and earn high incomes.”
Therefore, medical dispensaries are more popular among individuals with a higher income. There is also a percentage of residents that live in small, rural areas far away from cities. It is considerable that disabled or low income individuals may have more trouble traveling far locations with high travel costs.
As a proposed solution, delivery services could be beneficial. Many are hopeful for future collaboration with delivery platforms such as Uber and Amazon.
In an article from The New York Times on cannabis companies, “zoning puts the squeeze on real estate available to cannabis companies, often relegating them to industrial areas.”
This issue affects the cannabis industry as zoning can limit dispensaries from properties that have commercial use. Another obstacle involves the requirements of how far a dispensary must be from schools, homes and public parks.
According to Scythianre, a real estate team working with cannabis businesses; “one step that local marijuana businesses can take is to contact their local officials and request information about zoning ordinances.”
This could help new businesses construct a plan that would not run them into any future issues with their establishments.
So what can we expect out of the future for cannabis retail sales? More acceptance from residents, new ventures in the cannabis business, and continuous growing support from all over the community.