Don’t look for marijuana lounges in Ballston

BALLSTON – Licensed businesses will be allowed to sell marijuana in Ballston, but their customers won’t be able to enjoy their purchase until they leave the store.

The Ballston Town Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to opt-out of allowing “cannabis lounges” and any other form of on-site consumption of marijuana. But the board will allow licensed sellers to sell marijuana products in town.

A cannabis lounge is somewhat like a bar: people buy their preferred product and use it there, in a social environment with others.
A new state law allows the sale of recreational marijuana and lounges, unless a municipality opts out. Ballston Town Board members said they would rather skip marijuana bars than discover that they cause trouble when it’s too late to ban them.

“We only have one bar in town,” said Supervisor Eric Connolly after the meeting at which the board voted 5-0 against marijuana lounges. “We are a bedroom community, a rural and farming community.”

Municipalities can opt back in later, but can’t opt out after Dec. 31.

The board put out a survey to which nearly 1,000 residents responded about marijuana. In terms of stores that can sell marijuana, 64 percent were in favor. But only 33 percent were in favor of marijuana lounges.

“The residents and the Town Board are in favor of not opting out of dispensaries,” Connolly said.

But buyers should use marijuana in the privacy of their homes, board members said.

People can also now smoke small quantities of marijuana anywhere that smoking cigarettes is legal, except motorized vehicles. Like alcohol, no one can use marijuana in a car.

That is where Ballston officials are concerned. There is no easy test like the Breathlyzer to determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana. A blood test only shows that someone had marijuana, not how much was in their system when they were driving.

Approved marijuana retailers are not expected to open in New York until next year at the earliest. The state has not yet finished writing the regulations, taxing and license structure that will govern them.

But parts of the law are already in effect, allowing adults to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana in public and grow marijuana at home. Adults can also store up to 5 pounds of marijuana at home if it is secured so that children can’t get to it.

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