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Cuomo bill would let counties, cities block cannabis businesses


New York is on the verge of ending its prohibition on cannabis, but legalization might not look the same in every part of the state. It will all depend on the final bills passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The legalization proposal that Cuomo included in his budget – the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act – includes an opt-out provision for counties and the state’s larger cities. The concept was murky when Cuomo first mentioned it during his budget address earlier this month. One small section of his massive legalization bill, however, spells out the details.

Under the governor’s proposal, county and city governments couldn’t prohibit anyone over 21 from possessing and consuming cannabis, which would be legal statewide. Cuomo’s bill would allow – with a state-issued license – a variety of commercial cannabis businesses involved in cultivating, processing, distributing, and selling cannabis. And it would allow counties, as well as cities with a population of more than 100,000, to pass laws blocking one or more types of allowed cannabis operations.

In other words, if lawmakers agree to Cuomo’s proposed opt-out provision, Monroe County or the City of Rochester could, theoretically, block some or all recreational cannabis commerce within their boundaries.
In a statement released immediately after the governor’s speech, Mayor Lovely Warren said the city has no intention of opting out.

County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo is still evaluating the provision, says county spokesperson Jesse Sleezer.
“We just don’t know enough about the opt-out yet,” he says.

But if the county were to block some cannabis businesses, there could be a cost. The governor’s proposal includes a 2 percent tax on transaction between wholesalers and retail dispensaries. The counties would get the money based on purchases by dispensaries within their boundaries.