Johnson City plans to ban smoking of recreational marijuana in public parks

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Marijuana may have been legalized in New York state earlier this year, but Johnson City residents may soon be restricted in where it’s legal to light up. 

The village is looking to pass an amendment to local law that would add cannabis to the list of substances restricted from spaces like public parks and other village-owned property. Tobacco smoking and vaping are already banned from those public spaces. 

“This adds cannabis to our list of things you can’t do in public parks and public property similar to the no-smoking rules we have now,” said Mayor Greg Deemie. “We’re just adding recreational marijuana to it. Right now cigarettes and vaping is already banned in the parks and certain other areas in the village. We’re just basically adding (cannabis) to the list of things you cannot do.” 

Johnson City's action will be the subject of a public hearing at the village’s Oct. 5 meeting before coming before the board for a vote. Deemie said the primary goal is to protect residents from secondhand smoke in Johnson City’s public parks.  

This isn’t the first time Johnson City has been at the forefront of local policy changes. Laura Kelly, Community Engagement Coordinator for Tobacco Free Broome and Tioga, said the village was among the first in Broome County to enact a tobacco-free parks policy. Kelly expects other municipalities in the region to follow the village’s lead once again when it comes to restricting cannabis use in public parks. 

“If they move forward with this Johnson City would be providing a great policy on the books, and provide other municipalities a blueprint to show what Johnson City did in updating their outdoor policy,” said Kelly. “There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. It’s the same with cannabis. When a municipality amends or establishes a new tobacco-free policy to include marijuana language, not only are you cutting down on secondhand smoke exposure from tobacco products but now you’re adding the elimination of tobacco litter and cannabis litter, and creating a healthy space for our youth. 


“More people utilize our parks and greenspaces than just youth, but with playground facilities they are a place where families go and specifically bring their youth. Creating healthy normatives is important and that’s what these policies do for our communities. Both cannabis and tobacco control achieve the same goal, which is good.” 

The state’s changing stance has left organizations like Tobacco Free Broome and Tioga in somewhat of a no-man’s land when it comes to marijuana use. Tobacco Free Broome and Tioga cannot offer technical assistance to municipalities like Johnson City looking to add cannabis language to existing laws. The group’s purview remains limited to tobacco. It can, however, assist municipalities that don’t have a law on the books in establishing a tobacco-free policy that also includes cannabis.  

“Then we can go ahead and provide that technical support because it is a new tobacco policy as well, they’re just including the cannabis portion of it,” said Kelly. 

A few other municipalities in the region have enacted similar cannabis restrictions in public parks. Hornell banned smoking, vaping, cannabis and all other tobacco use within municipal parks in a unanimous vote in June. Ithaca amended its outdoor smoking codes to include cannabis in July. 

Johnson City’s amendment is the village’s first step in addressing the legalization of marijuana. The board must still decide by Dec. 31 if it wants to opt out of allowing retail dispensaries and consumption sites within the village.

The board has discussed the issue, but no decision has been made. 

“If you look at it, it’s a lot of revenue to throw away. It’s going to happen any way you look at it,” said Deemie. “It’s going to be up to the board on what they want to do.” 

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