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New York Legislator Tees Up Bill That Would Ban Marijuana In Most Public Places

New Yorkers annoyed by the overwhelming odor of marijuana smoke that now permeates some cities in the state may soon get some breathing room if a bill proposed in the state legislature gets any traction.

A bill introduced last week by an upstate assemblyman, Philip Steck, a Democrat, would forbid residents from smoking marijuana in places that could be frequented by children. The bill, if it becomes law, would effectively ban marijuana smokers from lighting up in most public places in the state.

Mr. Steck tells the Sun that he has long-championed marijuana legalization and will continue to do so but insists that the drug needs to be better regulated. Constituents have expressed concerns, he says, about the irresponsible manner in which some people are using the drug in public places and in front of children.

“No, you do not have a God-given right to engage in any behavior you want at any time in any place under any circumstances,” Mr. Steck says. “We are certainly open to reasoned discussion about how to fairly regulate marijuana usage, and this is only the first version of this legislation.”

“People have a right to enjoy marijuana so long as it does not adversely affect the rights of others,” he adds.

At New York City, the smell of burning marijuana has become so ubiquitous in recent years that locals have begun calling the pungent aroma the “unofficial” odor of the metropolis these days, replacing the smell of rotting garbage that used to permeate the city. Tourists from other states and abroad describe it as overwhelming to the point of being annoying to non-smokers and even those who partake on an irregular basis.

The prevalence of the smell of marijuana even drew complaints from players at last month’s U.S. Open tennis match at Flushing Meadows. One player, Maria Sakkari, complained to a chair umpire about the overwhelming odor on Court 17, which sits across from Corona Park. Another, Alexander Zverev, likened playing on the court to playing in “Snoop Dogg’s living room.”

Since the state legalized recreational marijuana use in 2021, it has been legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for personal use. Currently, adult users may smoke or vape cannabis wherever smoking tobacco is allowed.

Mr. Steck’s bill, dubbed A08025 , would amend the state’s marijuana law to prohibit “the use of cannabis within thirty feet of a child or within thirty feet of any location in which children reside or attend for any recreational or educational purpose” and “provides for increased penalties for a second or subsequent violation.”

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