New Paltz Village and town officials are stymied as to next steps for a proposed local law to regulating using cannabis in public. The possibility of recreational use becoming legal in the state doesn’t eliminate all of the reasons local laws are being considered, but without the text of a state law it’s not at all clear what a local rule should look like. At their February 7 joint meeting, town and village officials went around in circles, asking questions, agreeing that the answers were not immediately available and then asking similar ones yet again.
While the idea of creating a “loitering for the intention of consuming cannabis” law emerged from concerns that students were being targeted through various nuisance laws, including unlawful possession of marijuana, noise and open alcohol containers, the factor most often mentioned around the table was money. Local laws mean that the fines go to the local municipality, while with state laws it’s only a small portion and sometimes nothing at all. Supervisor Neil Bettez said that he’s “frustrated” that cannabis could be legalized in such a way that the impacts would be absorbed locally; he wondered aloud if perhaps state police could be solely responsible for enforcing the new state rules when and if they are passed.
Mayor Tim Rogers, trustee Don Kerr and deputy mayor KT Tobin also made it clear that they were interested in fines that would stay local. The loitering law is supposed to also help avoid court appearances; with a fixed fine, it’s believed the ticket could be conveniently mailed in with a guilty plea and payment. (That payment would have to be by money order or bank check, as neither personal checks nor cash are accepted at the town court; not accepting cash may be illegal, but the practice itself would have to be challenged in court to determine that for certain.) Whether or not such tickets could be mailed in was itself cast into doubt; that will have to be verified as well.
After a lengthy conversation, the matter was laid down to allowing for more information to be gathered.