State lawmaker proposes fines for smoking marijuana near children

A state lawmaker wants to make it illegal to smoke marijuana near children.

Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Schenectady, has introduced A.8025 to prohibit the use of cannabis within 30 feet of a child or 30 thirty feet of any location in which children reside or attend for any recreational or educational purpose. Steck’s bill also includes additional penalties for those who are ticketed more than once.

The legislation comes as the state is working to ramp up sales of legal marijuana throughout the state after a prolonged rollout that has taken more than two years to get marijuana dispensaries up and running.

Steck would fine those found guilty of violating the law $25 or not more than 20 hours of community service, with the severity increasing to a class B misdemeanor for a second offense.

“Many constituents have expressed concern over irresponsible behavior with marijuana that adversely affects the rights of others to raise their children as they feel is appropriate,” Steck said in a recent Facebook post. “People do not have a God-given right to engage in any behavior they want at any time, in any place, under any circumstances. People have a right to enjoy marijuana so long as it does not adversely affect the rights of others. Further, the CDC has described significant adverse health effects from modern marijuana. That does not mean making it illegal. It just means taking a sensible approach to it.”

Steck cites a 2018 study by Mount Sinai researchers of second-hand smoke in Colorado children that found nearly half of children whose parents smoked marijuana showed evidence of second-hand marijuana smoke exposure. Among the parents studied, smoking was the most common form of marijuana use (30.1%), followed by edibles (14.5%) and vaporizers (9.6%).

A 2021 study published in the journal Pediatric Research found children whose parents regularly smoke or vape marijuana may experience viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, more frequently than those whose parents do not smoke. The authors caution that the observational nature of the study does not allow for conclusions about a causal relationship between second-hand marijuana smoke exposure and the frequency of viral respiratory infections

“Our findings highlight the prevalence of marijuana use among parents and caregivers and indicate which children may be more likely to be exposed to second-hand marijuana smoke in a US state where recreational and medicinal marijuana use is legal,” researcher Adam Johnson said. “These findings could be used to help target and shape public health messaging aimed at parents and caregivers in order to raise awareness of the potential negative impacts that second-hand marijuana smoke exposure can have on children’s health.”

Earlier this year, Steck, who chairs the Assembly Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, introduced A.4934 to amend the state Cannabis Law over concerns people could eat too many THC-laced gummies or edibles as more marijuana dispensaries open throughout the state.

A study released in January in the journal Pediatrics showed there have been more than 7,000 confirmed cases of children younger than 6 eating marijuana edibles were reported to the nation’s poison control centers between 2017 and 2021, climbing from about 200 to more than 3,000 per year. Nearly a quarter of the children wound up hospitalized, some seriously ill. Cases of kids eating pot products such as candies, chocolate and cookies have coincided with more states allowing medical and recreational cannabis use. Currently 37 U.S. states permit use of marijuana for medical purposes and 21 states regulate adult recreational use, according to a Jan. 3 Associated Press report.

“Edibles are often packaged with more than one adult serving,” Steck wrote. “Research has shown that edibles are the form of marijuana consumption most likely to lead to emergency room visits for marijuana overdose, also referred to as acute marijuana intoxication. In addition, accidental marijuana edible consumption among children has been climbing at alarming rates in legalized states and on a national level. Children are at risk for consuming more than the recommended dose for adults because they look just like any other candy or snack.”


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