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With Decision Deadline Looming, Roughly One-Third New York State Communities Have Opted Out Of Marijuana Dispensaries

LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A deadline is looming across New York state.

Municipalities have until Dec. 31 to decide if they will allow legalized adult-use recreational marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption lounges.

But as CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday, hundreds of villages, towns, and cities are opting out.

Yet another Long Island town, Hempstead, recently announced it will opt out of dispensaries, as the year-end deadline nears.

As is Long Beach, citing a lack of guidance from the state.

"The state doesn't really know what they are doing, either. We all need to take a step back in order to move forward the right way," Long Beach councilwoman Elizabeth Treston said.

A wait-and-see approach is being applauded by substance abuse groups.

"We already have outrageous underage drinking rates and we didn't want Long Beach, at least at this point, to be the underage mecca for marijuana as well," said Judy Vining, executive director of the group Long Beach Aware.

"If they want to get it, let them go to another town," one resident said.

"I have no personal problem with it. I'd like to see it," another added.

It's a divisive issue, with more than one-third of New York municipalities opting out, including Long Island villages and towns Glen Cove, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Huntington, Islip, Shelter Island, East Hampton and Smithtown.

Failure to opt out by year's end means communities are irreversibly opted in.

Ones that have opted in include Babylon, Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton, whose supervisor, Jay Schneiderman, said it makes no sense to miss out on the 3% tax revenue neighboring communities will benefit from.

"There are so many things that we can us the money for to improve our community. So to walk away from that just seemed like an irresponsible fiscal position, when you know it wasn't going to decrease the use in any way," Schneiderman said.

Opting out is missing out on what advocates says is a highly regulated industry that is safer than alcohol and has union jobs.

"Cannabis legalization is going to bring thousands of jobs and millions upon millions of dollars to the community. These are not the head shops of the 1960s," said John Durso, the president of the Long Island Federation of Labor.

Riverhead's supervisor, Yvette Aguiar, criticized her town's passage.

"No town in Suffolk County is prepared to address the location, the use and the enforcement of driving under the influence of a narcotic substance," Aguiar said.

A municipality can reverse its opt-out decision with the a public referendum or simply a revote, if there is a change of heart about the safety of dispensaries and the lost revenue.

To see which communities in New York state have opted in or out, please click here.

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