SOMERS, N.Y. - Somers will hear from the community tonight (Thursday, June 10) on whether it should opt-in or opt-out of allowing marijuana retail dispensaries and places where cannabis products are consumed.

The public hearing -- via Zoom -- is set for 7 p.m.

In March, Albany legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana and expanded existing medical marijuana and cannabinoid hemp programs. The new state law allows cities, towns, and villages to “opt-out” of allowing retail dispensaries or licenses for so-called lounges.

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Under the measure’s previous iteration, only counties and cities with populations over 100,000 could do so.

The law took effect immediately, but municipalities have until Dec. 31, 2021, to pass a local “opt-out” law -- subject to permissive referendum.

If a municipality opts-out, it can opt-in at a later date, but once it’s in, it’s in.

The proposed local law would only impact retail and on-site consumption establishments. It will not prevent folks from possessing or growing small amounts of weed (with certain state restrictions) for their personal use, or, apparently, state-licensed marijuana farms.

Medical marijuana has been legal since 2014. Recreational pot use was decriminalized in New York in 2019.

Social equity has been cited as a reason for the change, and money raised through legal sales is expected to be allocated to communities adversely impacted by stringent drug laws.

It’s unlikely that pot shops will sprout in the state until 2022, so officials have plenty of time to figure out their pros and cons.

The state first has to establish an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee matters such as medical, recreational, and hemp, a variety of the cannabis sativa plant species grown specifically for industrial use.

Cannabis sales are expected to generate thousands of new jobs and millions in tax revenues for the state, counties, and municipalities.

There’s growing opposition from folks who feel the financial rewards could be far outstripped by potential drawbacks such as impaired driving and the need to hire more police or code-enforcement officers.

It’s still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, but with no proven way to test for the substance, it puts the onus on the state Department of Health to search for new devices that could detect recent use.

Those citing health and safety concerns have also called marijuana a “gateway drug.”

WHAT TO KNOW

• Adults 21 and older can possess up to three ounces of marijuana or up to 24 grams of cannabis in concentrated forms such as oils.

• People convicted on low-level marijuana changes will have their criminal records erased.

• Adults can keep up to five pounds of pot at home, but have to make sure it’s stored securely and out of the hands of minors.

• Adult users will be allowed to grow up to six plants at home, either indoors or outdoors. Maximum: 12 plants per household.