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Saugerties police chief bans legal action against anyone with marijuana under 21

Apr 22, 2021 2:15 pm

William J. Kemble is reporting for the Daily Freeman Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra has directed Saugerties officers to refrain from taking legal action against anyone under the age of 21 who appears to be in violation of state laws covering marijuana possession. Sinagra told the village board this week, “I have put an order out to members of this department that they are not to engage anyone who is less than 21 years of age that has cannabis. We have no legal grounds at this point that would allow us to do that, and doing so could get us sued.” Under the newly adopted state law, New Yorkers aged 21 or older can legally possess and use marijuana. The law also states that possessing marijuana under the age of 21 “shall in no way qualify as a criminal accusation, admission of guilt or a criminal conviction,” but says there could be a civil penalty of up to $50 for underaged possession. “It does not provide a mechanism for us to bring the person before the local criminal court as we have in the Alcoholic Beverage Control law with someone ... who’s less than 21 years of age,” Sinagra said. He called on Saugerties village and town officials to adopt local ordinances to clarify. State lawmakers say the existing language is sufficient for police to take enforcement action. State police have not commented publicly on provisions in the new law, but a spokesperson for Troop F said the agency is only allowed to take action in matters that involve criminal codes. Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa is on the record as agreeing with Sinagra, “to a certain extent that this law has issues in particular to protecting our youth," but he did not say the law was unenforceable. Read the full story in the Daily Freeman.