Mineola bans smoking, vaping cannabis on village property

By Taylor Nicioli

The Village of Mineola board of trustees voted unanimously Sept. 1 to approve a law to prohibit smoking or vaping of cannabis on all village properties, including buildings, parks, playgrounds and the pool.

The hearing, with Mayor Scott Strauss and Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira in attendance, as well as board members Paul Cusato, George Durham and Dennis Walsh, had been called to receive public comment on the proposed law. Officials noted that other Long Island municipalities had adopted similar laws with the recent legalization of cannabis in New York State.

 The Mineola Village Hall Community Center, where the public hearing to consider new cannabis regulations took place Sept. 1. // Photo by Taylor Nicioli/ Long Island Advocate

Then New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill in late March to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. New York residents are now allowed to possess and use cannabis products, and even give them to others who meet the age requirement. Selling it will be legal once regulations are put in place. The law also allows New York cities, towns and villages to opt out of allowing cannabis retail dispensaries.

The Village of Mineola was to hold a second public hearing on Oct. 13 to discuss the proposed opt-out of the cannabis retail law.

The ban on smoking cannabis on village property was a quick discussion of the board, followed by a vote. “The law certainly makes sense to me,” said Strauss, followed by Periera saying it as a “no-brainer.”

The village code, located on the municipality’s website, states, “The village board is generally concerned that, despite any potential state regulation, marijuana may fall into the hands of those for whom it was not intended, such as children.”

A meeting attendee commended the board for prohibiting smoking and vaping on village property. “It’s something we have to do,” said Walsh, the board member. “It’s a preemptive strike. I’m good with that.”

Jen DeSena, executive director of the Manhasset Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse, who is also running for the Town of North Hempstead town supervisor, spoke to the board during open comment, urging members also to opt out of licensing and establishing retail cannabis dispensaries.

The board was informed of a cannabis task force that North Hempstead had created to advise on these laws. The task force comprises residents and experts who conduct meetings to gather public input and make recommendations on the opt-out, as well as zoning and other legislation.

“My town, Manhasset, was devastated this summer by the loss of three young men who were killed by a driver who was speeding … and had marijuana in his car,” DeSena said. “We feel that there is no amount of tax revenue that’s worth the loss of even one life.” Police detectives had told DeSena that they were unable to arrest the driver solely for having marijuana in his car, according to New York’s new law.

Village of Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy and Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Muarry had said in March that their municipalities would opt out of allowing the sale of marijuana, also due to concerns of driving under the influence, and they did.

Villages and towns can opt back in if they change their minds, but they cannot choose to opt out after Dec. 31.

“As a parent, I know we must do everything we can to keep cannabis out of kids’ hands and out of public spaces where minors may be present,” DeSena said. “I look forward to signing this legislation as a number-one priority, keeping our children safe.”