Bill to limit public marijuana smoking faces uphill battle

Assemblyman Michael Novakhov, R-Brooklyn, is pictured.

Thus far, Assemblyman Michael Novakhov is fighting an uphill battle to give local governments the ability to prohibit use of cannabis in public places.

Novakhov introduced A.7612 on May 25. Thus far, the bill has no co-sponsors and no companion bill in the state Senate, which makes it unlikely the bill gains much traction unless a Democrat picks up the bill and carries it through the legislature.

The Brooklyn Republican proposes prohibiting the use of cannabis in public places unless its public use is approved by local government. He notes many state and local public places are designated off-limits for tobacco use, including parks, schools and government-owned outdoor areas. It is also against the state’s indoor smoking prohibitions to smoke too close to doorways, though that section of law is rarely enforced. But if tobacco smoke is prohibited in certain areas then cannabis should be as well, according to Novakhov.

“New York state has long established prohibitions against smoking tobacco in public places, given both the nuisance created by the smoke and the potential health hazards of second-hand smoke,” Novakhov wrote in his legislative justification. “In addition, smoking is restricted to adults, as it is generally accepted that while tobacco smoking may be legal it is also in the eyes of many an undesirable habit for young people to adopt. The precise same logic should dictate that cannabis smoking be treated in the same fashion.”

Novakhov’s idea isn’t without precedent. Arkansas lawmakers put limits on where medical marijuana patients can smoke marijuana in 2017, saying medical marijuana couldn’t be smoked anywhere tobacco smoke was prohibited. In California, it is legal to use cannabis on private property but not in public places, places where it’s illegal to smoke tobacco and within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center or youth center while children are present.

New York’s law states marijuana can be smoked anywhere tobacco can be smoked. Anyone smoking in areas where tobacco is prohibited — such as bus stops, parks, schools and workplaces — already faces a $25 fine or community service. Novakhov wants to give local governments the ability to levy a $125 fine.

“While we no longer prosecute crimes involving small amounts of cannabis, and state law now permits recreational use by adults, a great many New Yorkers would much prefer not to be exposed to either the effects of cannabis smoke or to its smell, and would likewise prefer that their children not be exposed at an early age to seeing cannabis smoking,” he wrote. “The law has established that cannabis use is an adult activity, and it should likewise restrict this use to appropriate and considerate places.”


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