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Mar 6, 2019 9:44 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East End Officials Weigh In On County Proposal To Opt Out Of Marijuana Legalization

David Falkowski, of Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton, spoke at the public hearing, noting that county legislators were getting ahead of themselves with Trotta's bill. VALERIE GORDON PHOTOS
Mar 7, 2019 12:10 PM

Southampton and East Hampton town and village officials who are opposed to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s statewide proposal to legalize adult use of recreational marijuana are now looking to Suffolk County to opt out of the governor’s plan.

In January, at Mr. Cuomo’s State of the State Address, the governor announced that counties and cities with populations over 100,000 would be eligible to regulate cannabis sales.

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta has proposed a bill that, if approved, would prohibit the sale of marijuana countywide. Legislators Leslie Kennedy of Smithtown and Kevin McCaffrey of Lindenhurst have co-sponsored the proposal.

East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. fully supports Mr. Trotta’s regulatory measure. In a letter to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, dated February 5, he outlined several potential ramifications of legalizing cannabis.

He referred to marijuana as a “gateway drug” leading to cocaine, heroin and other lethal drugs, noting that it would be counterintuitive to legalize it.

“What kind of message are we sending when we are taking steps to legalize the use of substances that are highly addictive and are considered gateway drugs to much more dangerous substances?” Mr. Rickenbach asked the county executive in his letter. “We must put the health and safety of our residents first.”

However, two years ago, Mr. Cuomo dismissed the characterization of marijuana as a “gateway drug” after a New York State Health Department study concluded that the benefits of legalizing marijuana far outweigh the risks. At his budget address in January, Mr. Cuomo estimated that the state could see $300 million in revenue annually from the drug’s sale.

According to Mr. Stevens, if Suffolk County approves Mr. Trotta’s proposal, the “locality would forgo the new revenue generated through the program that would otherwise be available to support additional priorities and services.”

Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki had expressed concerns about the drug’s legalization last month.

On Tuesday, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman estimated that Suffolk County’s cut of the state’s $300 million tax revenue would equate to roughly $20 million annually from the sale of marijuana.

Southampton Town, which collects only property taxes and not sales tax, would see trickle-down effects from those funds, such as an increase in county funding for public transportation, homeless shelters and health clinics.

“If it’s not available in Suffolk County but it is available in Nassau County, people will be able to procure it,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “It is not going to reduce the use, which I think the legislator is trying to accomplish. We’ll have the same use without the $20 million to help pay the county’s $70 million structural deficit.”

At a public hearing before the County Legislature on Tuesday, held at the Evans K. Griffing County Center in Riverhead, Mr. Trotta stressed that money, however, should not be the driving force in determining whether legalizing marijuana would be beneficial. Rather than legalize recreational use, he said, it would better serve local communities if Mr. Cuomo and other state officials worked to expand the availability of medical marijuana.

“It’s super-expensive and hard to get,” Mr. Trotta said of medicinal cannabis during an interview on Monday. “I would like to see that loosen up a lot. It shouldn’t be about money.”

Chief Skrynecki said he is skeptical that the estimated revenue is accurate. When taking into consideration the overhead costs of securing a license to sell marijuana, which he expects to mirror those for alcohol-related sales, he said the cost of buying cannabis substances will be cheaper on the “black market.”

He also reiterated concerns that legalizing marijuana may cause more people to overdose on heroin and cocaine, as well as potentially increase the number of fatal auto accidents.

“Those are the issues that I think the Town Board should be aware of, whether they can act or not,” Chief Skrynecki said.

On Monday, Mr. Trotta expressed similar concerns, noting that there is no definitive method for testing an impaired driver for marijuana use.

“That’s a huge issue,” he said, agreeing that fatal auto accidents could very well increase. “We have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Chief Skrynecki declined to comment on Mr. Trotta’s countywide proposal and stressed that he by no means wishes to influence town or county officials in making a decision to opt out of the governor’s plan.

Chief Skrynecki did, however, raise the question of whether or not Southampton Town fits within the state’s population guidelines for opting out. He mentioned that many of the town’s residents are seasonal and questioned whether their residency is taken into consideration. “The population of this town is not easily determined if you count seasonal activities,” he said.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, in 2017, Southampton Town’s population was roughly 58,024, not reflecting part-time residents. East Hampton’s population was closer to 28,000.

Taking summer residency into consideration, Mr. Schneiderman said that Southampton Town’s numbers would be closer to 200,000 or 300,000 people.

However, on Tuesday, the supervisor criticized Mr. Trotta’s proposal, calling it “premature.”

“You don’t even have a law in Albany yet. They might not even have an opt-out provision,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “The cart is a light year ahead of the horse here.”

Still, Mr. Trotta reiterated the importance of his proposal on Monday, referring to his prior years as an officer with the Suffolk County Police Department, from which he retired in 2013.

“Having been a police officer for 25 years, I know first-hand that making marijuana available for sale is a step in the wrong direction,” Mr. Trotta said. “The health and well-being of our residents are far more important than plugging the holes in our bloated budget.”

The community, however, remains divided.

At Tuesday’s public hearing, David Falkowski, of Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton, essentially agreed with Mr. Schneiderman, noting that the county legislators were getting ahead of themselves.

“I think we should wait until the end of the month, until New York State offers us legislation that we can look at and analyze and then continue our discussions,” he said.

Others who spoke at the meeting, however, had already made up their minds about Mr. Trotta’s bill.

Susan Reeve of Riverhead was strongly opposed to the county legislator’s proposal to prohibit marijuana sales. She argued that states where marijuana was legalized saw a combined increase of $132 billion in revenue and more than one million jobs, according to a 2018 study by New Frontier Data Corp.

“If Suffolk County says ‘no’ to this, you’re out of your minds,” she said, addressing the board.

On the other hand, Angela Huneault of Southampton applauded Mr. Trotta for his efforts to opt out of the governor’s plan.

She expressed concerns about impaired driving and also argued that marijuana would cause many more people to become addicted to lethal drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

“If it’s in your hands and I see you going from lane to lane, I don’t want you in front of me, behind me, or anywhere near me. I don’t want it in anyone’s hands,” she said. “I say ‘no.’”

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The biggest and legal "gateway drug" is alcohol. How many accidents per year are caused by alcohol abuse? How many families are torn apart due to alcohol abuse? Will Suffolk County consider opting out of that?? I don't think so People need to make a sensible choice about any of these substances. It should not be regulated by the government.
By CNappi (4), East Quogue on Mar 6, 19 1:48 PM
2 members liked this comment
Ironic that Southampton Village use to have signs at its entrances, with a banner headline at the top:

"Founded For Freedom"

How did Prohibition work out?

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle !!!
By Nero (275), Sag Harbor on Mar 6, 19 2:25 PM
Reefer Madness coming soon to the theater near you. Town folk will be driven to insanity. Hordes of stoners Will take over our beaches and create traffic jams by driving within the speed limit. Munchies will leave our supermarket shelves empty. And soon, all those potheads will be addicted to heroin...
Get real people. There is no scientific or legitimate basis for making canniabis illegal in the first place. It was about racism in the 30’s and anti Vietnam protesters in the 70’s. ...more
By Marrrmin (15), Hampton bays on Mar 6, 19 2:35 PM
"She expressed concerns about impaired driving and also argued that marijuana would cause many more people to become addicted to lethal drugs such as heroin and cocaine." What a joke! Who still believes this "gateway drug" B.S.?
Pot is already accessible to anyone who wants to buy it. Wouldn't it be much safer to regulate it, so that it's not laced with something that's actually harmful, or let people grow their own, so they know it's all 100% natural?
By Local Yokel (1), Hampton Bays on Mar 6, 19 2:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
The current proposal wouldn't legalize growing your own plants. Contact your elected officials.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5916), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 6, 19 2:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'm giving up commenting on 27east for lent (I just failed), it is fun but a time-suck. I'm also giving up some other more meaningful things. I'm not giving up on "big blunts with big chunks of hash" or smoking "skunk with my peeps all day, spread love the Brooklyn way". See y'all with more snarky comments from me after Easter. Peace, love and respect : )
By Aeshtron (312), Southampton on Mar 6, 19 4:01 PM
I'm giving up elevators, LOL. Take care!
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5916), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 6, 19 4:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
As usual, our government officials on the wrong side of history.
By eagleeye (72), Sag Harbor on Mar 6, 19 4:15 PM
3 members liked this comment
Let me guess. The guy with the dreadlocks is pro marijuana.
By SlimeAlive (1144), Southampton on Mar 6, 19 5:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
You guessed right Slime! He’s a guy with dreadlocks who’s pro medicinal marijuana . He’s also a very kind, intelligent local farmer with a budding and promising organic hemp farm .
By toes in the water (758), southampton on Mar 6, 19 5:30 PM
Oh, yeah and the guy with the big belly is a beer guzzling drunk...dumb comment. My sister has stage 4 cancer and the ONLY thing that has assisted here nausea us medicinal marijuana.
By ammills (22), east hampton on Mar 7, 19 1:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
So sorry to hear that. Anything that can make her life bearable is a good thing .
By Fred s (2186), Southampton on Mar 7, 19 1:17 PM
Wagwan?
By Fred s (2186), Southampton on Mar 6, 19 5:10 PM
Get ahead of the game Suffolk County. We have a LOT of farms here and I don'
t think Potatoes and corn are that profitable. I could be wrong. Just saying....
By ammills (22), east hampton on Mar 6, 19 5:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
Really?! I’m trying to understand your comment. What does Suffolk County have to do with growing hemp? Are our officials supposed to take over an dictate what the farmers should do with their land? Do you realize how much farmland has been lost over the years? Our dwindling food source is much more important that trying to cash in on hemp. Where will get your food from if all the farmers decided that potatoes and corn aren’t profitable enough for them? The farmer grows us food out of ...more
By toes in the water (758), southampton on Mar 7, 19 6:51 AM
Right now obviously SC has nothing to do with growing hemp but maybe it should be considered. I have a 3 and 6 year old and this community is losing people by the hundreds. We live in the land of "no." The average age of the population is increasing. Main street is dead. I'm know how much farming has been lost but also know how much has been saved. I enjoy the corn and potatoes as much as anyone but many farmers are land poor and perhaps if they could sell their crops for more money, it would ...more
By ammills (22), east hampton on Mar 7, 19 12:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
People really should get a clue . Alcohol and tobacco are the real gateway drugs . Ok weed may lead to obesity ...
By AndersEn (160), Southampton on Mar 6, 19 5:15 PM
2 members liked this comment
Legalize it already!
By toes in the water (758), southampton on Mar 6, 19 5:31 PM
2 members liked this comment
I have a question for all the pot users on here. Do you plan on only smoking your pot at home or do you plan on smoking it all over town. If you want to stay home and smoke it - more power to you, have fun and enjoy. But if not, are you planning on driving around high thinking in your drugged yo state that it somehow makes you a safer driver? (Btw it doesn’t.) Do you plan on smoking it in public and blowing that smelly stuff all over everyone else’s clothes and into children’s ...more
By localEH (388), East Hampton on Mar 6, 19 6:23 PM
your comment shows your ignorance-where did you read that the law would make smoking in public allowable? the only difference for folks that already smoke is that they can go to a store and buy a quality product. educate yourself and still vote no or yes
By BrianWilliams (68), on Mar 6, 19 7:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Frankly, I have no problem with natural whole leaf rolled tobacco. Cigarettes are quite often the bottom of the barrel. The shredded remains of the harvest which are sprayed with chemicals, rolled in dioxin bleached paper, and often (but not always) attached to a fiberglass filter. I'll take the cigar...
By Mr. Z (11022), North Sea on Mar 6, 19 8:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ok I took your advice and educated myself more on public use. Turns out while it is “technically” illegal to smoke pot in public in NYC and Massachusetts, there is admittedly virtually zero enforcement of the law by the police. People are free to smoke it anywhere and any way they want, and frequently do so. In California and Colorado it’s mixed - some cities are strict, but many are completely lax on enforcement. That complete irreverence and disregard for the law by pot smokers ...more
By localEH (388), East Hampton on Mar 6, 19 10:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
I will smoke it in private or away from people who don’t like the smell, though I know many who enjoy the scent. I consume my alcohol , when served in bars , parties or events, on a respectable level . And the same goes for my marijuana consumption . Just because it may be leagazlied does not mean it will become a free for all for pot smokers to light up on Main Street. Like many people who get off work an go home to enjoy a cold a beer of three, many return home to enjoy a smoke .

Have ...more
By toes in the water (758), southampton on Mar 7, 19 6:40 AM
That’s a very reasonable response and I applaud you for being so responsible. I would completely support that kind of recreational use. The problem is how to deal with those who aren’t like you. In NYC and Massachusetts you can’t walk down most streets without being engulfed in smoke, even around schools. We should be able to go to the beach or park or trails to enjoy the fresh air without having a group of stoners set up camp next to us and begin burning out like it’s a ...more
By localEH (388), East Hampton on Mar 7, 19 9:58 AM
Local, can appreciate your concerns, I wish you had the same concerns with gun ownership.nearly 40,000 people died from gun deaths, and guns are legal. Just a little food for thought.
By Fred s (2186), Southampton on Mar 7, 19 10:10 AM
2 members liked this comment
I think one of the benefits of legalization is that, if you want to consume cannabis, there will be plenty of alternative, safer means than smoking.

I would never risk an arrest/ticket by sparking up at the beach, but if I had a sober ride I might enjoy an infused drink with some ice in the warm sun with the sand between my toes...is it summer yet?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5916), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 7, 19 11:12 AM
Your stats are disingenuous because you are including deaths due to suicide, gang activity and those illegally in possession of a gun. Do you want to talk about how many people have been killed in association with marijuana due to gangs, cartels, violent criminals and suicide? In 2015 (most recent year stats were compiled) only around 800 people were killed by a licensed and legal gun owner. In comparison in 2015 there were 7,800 people killed by drivers who had marijuana in their systems. Just ...more
By localEH (388), East Hampton on Mar 7, 19 3:04 PM
Can you please cite your data? I can't find where you got that number of cannabis-related automobile deaths.

Also, does "marijuana in their systems" means they smoked that day? That week? That month? It matters, right?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5916), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 7, 19 3:27 PM
Local, a gun is used in gun deaths, it’s not disingenuous. State your facts. I stand by my post. Gun deaths are deaths caused a gun. Parse all you want , my facts are true.
Mar 7, 19 4:15 PM appended by Fred s
From Market Watch ....In 2018 alone, including the most recent carnage at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, there have been 47,220 gun-related incidents resulting in 11,984 deaths in the United States, according to data compiled by Gun Violence Archive, an independent data-collection and research group.That breaks down to 157 incidents and 40 deaths a day and does not include 22,000 suicides. Of the total fatalities, 548 were children, while 2,321 were teenagers. GVA defines gun incidents as all types of shootings, including officer involved, accidental, children shooting themselves, murders, armed robberies, mass shootings, home Invasions and drivebys.
By Fred s (2186), Southampton on Mar 7, 19 4:15 PM
Unlike others here, I am happy to cite my data. It is from the Governors Highway Safety Association. They found that 54% of the drivers who caused 38,000 people to be killed were found to have an illegal level of drugs in their systems and that 38% of those had marijuana in their systems. Want more facts: In Colorado, the CDOT found that 73% of drivers under the influence had marijuana in their systems. The CDOT also found 69% of marijuana users admitted to driving while high and 27% admitted to ...more
By localEH (388), East Hampton on Mar 7, 19 5:16 PM
And over 100,000 people were killed in 2018 in connection to drug cartels who sell and distribute marijuana. Based on basic math, marijuana is 10x worse than guns. Marijuana deaths are deaths caused by the sale and use of marijuana. So yes, "parsing" does matter. It is called context.
Mar 7, 19 5:21 PM appended by localEH
Fred you were the one who said "gun ownership", meaning license legal gun owners, was a problem to be concerned about. I gave you the statistics on deaths from licensed legal gun owners. Sorry they don't fit your crazed guns and gun owners are evil and out to kill us all in our sleep agenda.
By localEH (388), East Hampton on Mar 7, 19 5:21 PM
This from GHSA.......SUMMARY
After Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana:
Marijuana use increased according to data from Colorado and Washington.
THC presence increased in drivers on the road and in arrested and crash-involved drivers according to data from Washington. THC-positive drivers may not necessarily be impaired.
There are no firm conclusions on whether crash rates changed in either state.
Fatal crashes involving marijuana increased in both Colorado ...more
Mar 7, 19 5:36 PM appended by Fred s
I posted this for the line .....THC-positive drivers may not necessarily be impaired.
By Fred s (2186), Southampton on Mar 7, 19 5:36 PM
Local, I’m a gun owner myself, so your narrative about gun owners falls flat with me. If you ever want to have a legitimate discussion without resorting to petty name calling, let me know.
By Fred s (2186), Southampton on Mar 7, 19 5:46 PM
@ localEH

That's not a "citation", localEH, it's a "reference". The citation would be:

"Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States" (The Governor's Highway Safety Association [May, 2018])

Properly citing a source enables readers to check your data to determine if your claims are substantively based.

In fact, a review of this report shows that you have conflated its findings. The 54% figure to which you refer is the percentage ...more
By highhatsize (3930), East Quogue on Mar 7, 19 6:06 PM
Thank you highhatsize, your lawyerly response was appreciated.
By Fred s (2186), Southampton on Mar 7, 19 6:08 PM
Thanks HHS. So nothing about what "illegal levels" means. Considering a urine sample detects use for up to 30 days before, I'm going to call this one bupkis.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5916), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 7, 19 6:13 PM
If hemp weren't illegal for so long, perhaps we'd have lost a lot less farmland.
By Mr. Z (11022), North Sea on Mar 6, 19 8:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
Put the pipe down.
By themarlinspike (211), southampton on Mar 7, 19 8:36 AM
Maybe if you'd ever picked up on it, you'd wonder why non delta 9 hemp has been illegal for so long...
By Mr. Z (11022), North Sea on Mar 7, 19 11:13 PM
Not a good idea. We have enough stupid people here already. This is just a way the gov't and state to make money off of drugs. If this becomes legal and someone on drugs drives and hits you SUE state for allowing law.
By Win sky (36), Southampton on Mar 7, 19 8:59 AM
Ironic post is ironic?
By johnj (960), Westhampton on Mar 7, 19 9:26 AM
1 member liked this comment
Win sky, can I also sue the state if I’m hit by someone drunk, or on opioids or texting?
By Fred s (2186), Southampton on Mar 7, 19 9:38 AM
2 members liked this comment
Wait - Marijuana is currently illegal?? Wow - who would have thought after all of those years of easy purchase and use. What a time to live!
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (634), southampton on Mar 7, 19 9:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
I don't understand it .... If the DUMB officials of the East End defy the States Rules and Regulations concerning marijuana and We The People let them get away with it ... what's to stop these idiots from taking away our other liberties granted by the government of the State. They could just as well require a special drivers license and impose a tariff to obtain one.
this is the most absurd move any local government could make.
I suggest we dump those who oppose following the state's guide ...more
By jediscuba (60), Suthampton on Mar 7, 19 5:48 PM
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