SCHENECTADY — Schenectady took another step toward banning cannabis smoking and vaping in city parks on Monday, as the City Council held a public hearing on proposed amendments to the city code.
No members of the public spoke during the hearing. A full council vote on the issue could come as soon as the council’s next full meeting on March 27.
Under the proposal, cannabis smoking and vaping of electronic cigarettes would be added to the list of items residents cannot smoke in public parks, joining cigarettes, cigars and pipes.
A state law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in July prohibited the smoking of cannabis and tobacco at state-owned parks and parks managed by local municipalities, with the enforcement of the state law being left to county boards of health.
State law permits local governments to adopt and enforce local laws that prohibit smoking and vaping in local parks that are consistent with state law.
Under current Schenectady code, smoking violations in the city’s 25 public parks are punishable by a fine up to $50, which will include cannabis smoking and vaping if the code is amended.
The state Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was signed into law in March 2021 to legalize the use of recreational cannabis for adults 21 years and older.
The city code addressing smoking in public parks was last amended in 2012 and does not currently address the use of cannabis, cannabinoids or electronic cigarettes.
“I think it’s important, because at the time we passed the legislation marijuana and vaping, at least cannabis, were not legal,” Council President Marion Porterfield said of the proposed changes following Monday night’s meeting. “So it’s important that we make sure that we include all of those things so that people understand that everything is included. There’s a possibility if we didn’t include it that it could happen where people are smoking in the park and they say, ‘There’s nothing that says we can’t.’ So we want to make sure that we cover all of those things.”
The City Council voted in December 2021 to allow cannabis retail dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities in the city.
While the Upstate Canna Co. dispensary on Union Street is set to begin offering cannabis sales in April, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said on Monday that to his knowledge no permit applications had been filed in the city for potential cannabis lounges with on-site consumption.
With the legalization of cannabis, McCarthy said the smoking of marijuana products would be restricted to private residences and certain areas in the city.
“Generally still public streets and other public areas, but we’ve restricted it where in the past tobacco products have been restricted in parks and inside public buildings,” he said after Monday’s meeting. “I assume the City Council will adopt requirements that will complement what’s already on the books but will be applicable to cannabis products.”