While the Village of Lansing has already made its decision on the sale and public consumption of Cannabis in the municipality – opting into the retail sale and out of onsite consumption – the town has yet to make a decision on the two proposed regulations.
A decision was not made at the town council’s Nov. 17 meeting as it is looking to gather input from the public on both laws. A public hearing on the two propositions was held this past Wednesday, which garnered a handful of people to attend and speak. Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne was also in attendance via Zoom to answer any questions the public may have on the matter.
Those who spoke during the hearing expressed their uncertainty and worries regarding the possibility of the legalization of the sale and public consumption of cannabis in the town. One resident, Hugh Bahar, urged the council to opt out of both proposals for the meantime and see how well municipalities that did opt into both regulations fair. (Municipalities that chose to opt out at first can choose to opt into either one or both laws. Those who opt in initially are not able to opt out later.)
Bahar brought up the risk of children contracting “acute marijuana intoxication,” which, according to Children’s Hospital Colorado, is when someone “experiences immediate adverse effects from marijuana,” from smoking or ingesting cannabis. Children can mistake cannabis for actual food and depending on their age, size and weight can become very ill and may result in a visit to the emergency room or hospitalization, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
He also said he was concerned with a potential increase in drug-related crimes in the town and that he does not think having dispensaries in the town would be necessary.
“Right here in Lansing, in the development right across from Rogue’s Harbor, we had a drug-related shooting there recently, as you all know I’m sure,” Bahar said. “I think bringing in more drugs into this town is the opposite of the direction we need to keep going.”
“I think we’re rolling dice – it’s not a good dice roll to make,” he said. “There’s plenty of evidence to support it. People who need medical marijuana – and I do support prescribed marijuana, as long as the dosage is prescribed, and people are getting the correct dosage – there are dozens of marijuana outlets in the state where people can get their medical marijuana if they need it online, get it sent to them. It’s all available; we don’t need to have it in this town to give medical marijuana to people suffering from anxiety, pain and other life issues like cancer and various other things.”
In terms of law enforcement, another resident pointed out that the police do not have a way to measure an individual’s impairment if they were pulled over and had recently consumed cannabis, unlike situations involving alcohol where a driver is pulled over and tested with a breathalyzer.
Following the public’s comments, Sheriff Osborne spoke on the matter, first emphasizing that he is not “flatout anti-marijuana.”
“I think it’s got a lot of medicinal uses that help a lot of people, and I think that a lot of that is still unexplored, in my personal opinion,” Osborne said. “I’m also one that believes for the most part that people should be able to do what they want in their own homes. But we know from experience that oftentimes people don’t stay in their homes with things like this. We know that with drinking and consuming alcohol.”
Osborne referred back to the point of authorities not having methods of testing impairment from cannabis, saying that is a concern of his as well.
“It’s much more easy to observe signs of intoxication visually with alcohol, and we also have a breath test so we can test on-scene and follow up later by a more extensive breath test or blood test if need be,” he said. “The problem with marijuana is it’s in your system and it stays there for a long, long time. So we can test and find out somebody has it in their system, but it doesn’t prove to us when they consumed it. It could have been two weeks prior, and it won’t help us with the prosecution.”
Osborne also expressed concern with the possibility of there being an increase in the local crime rate if retail business were permitted to be established in the town.
“These types of businesses may have to be a cash-run business. It’s my understanding because marijuana is still against federal law, that the possibility exists that this money can’t be put into the financial institutions. … That may not sound terrible on its face, but if you have a local business in the Town of Lansing that’s holding large amounts of marijuana and large amounts of cash, that could become an easy target for a burglary or a different type of crime or robbery.”
According to 2020 report issued by the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) entitled “Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Law Enforcement and Crime: Final Report,” there is limited data on the correlation between the presence of cannabis dispensaries and the rate of neighborhood crime with some of the few studies reporting a positive relationship between the two and others showing a negative relationship. OJP states in its report that “it is important to note that a neighborhood-level link between dispensaries and crime, whether positive or negative, significant or not significant, does not in and of itself suggest that legalization will increase or decrease crime overall.”
If there were to be an increase in crime in such areas, Osborne said he is unsure whether or not the sheriff’s office will have enough resources to address such crimes.
“If the town board decides to go in this direction, and it does result in the need for an increase [in] police response and presence, I’m not confident that the sheriff’s office is able to provide any more than what we currently do,” he said. “Our 325 zone that covers the Town of Lansing and the Town of Groton is now our busiest patrol zone. We respond to that zone more than any other area in Tompkins County. And I can tell you, it’s not a result of the Town of Groton.”
The Town Council plans on making a decision on both proposed laws at its next meeting on Dec. 15.