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Gooch to recommend formation of ad-hoc committee to examine local impact, review county options on state's impending marijuana legalization

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Mon, Jan 28th 2019 02:00 pm

Panel would hold public forums to gauge public reaction to state action

With the increasing likelihood New York state will legalize adult recreational marijuana use in the coming months, Niagara County Legislator Jesse P. Gooch is presenting a resolution calling for the formation of an ad-hoc committee to analyze the state’s decision, consider the county’s options, and measure the public’s perspective on the matter.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently included the marijuana legalization proposal in one of his budget bills. While it may face some refining, the measure is expected to be approved by both houses of the Legislature and signed into law by the governor prior to the end of this year’s legislative session in Albany.

Gooch said it is critical for the Niagara County Legislature to hear from both the panel and the public, because the proposal Cuomo has put forth permits both individual counties and cities with more than 100,000 residents to opt out, qualifying Niagara County for the opt-out provision.

If the county does choose this direction, the legislature would need to adopt an ordinance, law or resolution to bar the establishment or operation of any of the pot-licensed entities Cuomo is proposing. This would include a ban on cultivation or retail pot facilities anywhere in Niagara County.

“The legalization of adult recreational marijuana is coming to New York state, that’s a certainty,” said Gooch, who represents parts of both Wheatfield and North Tonawanda. “As the county legislative body, it is imperative that we hear from any interested parties and gather as much information as needed to make an informed and educated decision regarding the opt-out provision, as well as the expected impact within our community.”

In addition to Gooch, Niagara County District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek, Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour, and Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton, or a member of their respective staffs, will be asked to sit on the ad-hoc committee. Gooch said he would also like a representative from the field of education to be a part of the committee, as well as additional county legislators. Representatives from other fields also will be considered.

Gooch said he would like the committee to hold two or three public panel discussions on the issue in the coming months.

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