Proposed law would crack down on using cannabis in public

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New York State Senator George Borello is proposing legislation to outlaw public consumption of cannabis.

The senator represents the 57th District in Western New York, which includes part of Livingston County. But he says he’s heard complaints from all over the state about how cannabis consumption is becoming a public nuisance.

Borello says he’s basically looking to make an open container law, but for cannabis. Right now, anywhere you can smoke cigarettes is fair game for cannabis products. Both kinds of smokers argue that’s already slim pickings. But Borello still wants to tighten that up.

“Like usual in New York state, we went way too far. Most states, including California, have limits as to where you can consume marijuana,” Borello said.

New York’s limits currently relegate cannabis use mostly to sidewalks, private homes and cars, and hotels if they allow it. Beaches, parks, zoos, and similar public places are already off limits.

“This is a quality of life issue and a public safety issue, and that’s what this bill addresses,” Borello said.

Borello says that towns and cities can opt out of his bill, and give public smoking the green light. For those who get caught in a no-pot zone: $125 fines.

But with a notoriously strong smell, how do you prove someone lit up on the sidewalk instead of in their car?

“Just like with alcohol, if you’re not acting like an idiot, chances are, things are going to be fine,” Borello said, adding, “It’s those folks that act irresponsibly that we’re looking to target.”

That worries Britni Tantalo, who’s currently waiting to get her cannabis retail license.

“It opens that doorway for targeting. How do you justify that, and how do you prove that?” Tantalo said.

Like all New York state applicants, Tantalo has a prior cannabis connection. So this law? “It worries me, um, it kind of opens up that doorway for potential to be targeted again.”

With a law like this, Tantalo says she’s worried about over-policing.

“I think that we have to be careful not to be regressive. Cannabis — this is going to be a cultural change, right? And we can’t forget that,” she said.

Borello claims the bill is meant to target the “small fraction” of users who make their intoxication a nuisance. But Tantalo’s not so sure about how just enforcement will be.

As of right now, the Senate bill is still in committee.