Fulton County Sheriff adapting to recreational marijuana legalization despite concerns

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FULTON COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Certain parts of New York State’s recreational marijuana law have already gone into effect, but Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino feels the state didn’t properly consult with law enforcement agencies before tasking them with enforcing these new rules.

“I think that the topic in Albany had been, ‘how much can we make in taxes and where can we spend it?’ and not whether this is healthy for young people and the future of the community,” Giardino said.

Regardless of his concerns, Sheriff Giardino says his department has known for a while that recreational marijuana would be legalized. But he didn’t expect the form it would take, and that law enforcement would have to pivot so quickly. He wants the public to know what to expect as these rules take shape.

“You cannot smoke marijuana in the car, and if we stop you for speeding and there’s fresh smoke in the car, we can search compartments,” Giardino explained. “We cannot search the trunk unless there is some other indication.”

He says the department will have to do lots of training on drug recognition, because it gives more probable cause to a case through certain field sobriety tests, similar to the ones used in cases involving alcohol.

The state will also launch a study due by Dec. 31, 2022, that examines the extent that cannabis impairs driving, and whether it depends on factors like time and metabolism.

As for smoking or vaping marijuana in public, the law allows it. Still, Giardino cautions the public that there are limits.

“Wherever you cannot smoke cigarettes, you cannot smoke marijuana,” Giardino said. That includes no smoking within 100 feet of a school.

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