ALBANY — Though it's now legal for New Yorkers to possess and smoke marijuana, police agencies across New York are letting officers know they will be prohibited from using the drug, even while off duty.
Peter Kehoe, director of the New York State Sheriffs Association, said county sheriffs departments have the right as employers to prohibit their deputies from using pot.
He said if the departments don't already have such a policy, it is expected they will now be motivated to implement one.
Patrick Phelan, director of the New York State Association of Police Chiefs, said his organization also recommends municipal police executives ban members of their departments from marijuana use.
Phelan said the issue will likely have to be revisited in the event the federal government removes marijuana from a list of banned drugs and legalizes its possession.
In Lockport, Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti said he issued a directive to his staffers instructing them to abstain from marijuana use. He said he doesn't expect any pushback from his deputies and investigators.
"I think they are probably more upset by it being legalized than anything," Filicetti said. "You have to remember this is something they have made hundreds if not thousands of arrests for."
Filicetti also highlighted the fact marijuana remains outlawed by the federal government.
Congress is expected to consider ending the federal prohibition, though President Joe Biden was the only major Democratic presidential candidate last year who wanted to keep the ban on cannabis.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told Politico this week that he expects to submit legislation that would legalize marijuana. "We're going to move forward, period," Schumer said.
In Delhi, Delaware County Sheriff Craig DuMond said all members of his agency — including civilians — have been warned that use of marijuana remains impermissible under departmental rules.
DuMond noted the county could face liability issues if a deputy was involved in using force on another person and through subsequent testing was positive for marijuana use.
He also said people in possession of firearms are not allowed to use marijuana, adding that the federal ban on pot is also in place despite the fact Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure legalizing pot use and regulated sales of marijuana in New York.
State Police Acting Superintendent Kevin Bruen signaled in February that troopers would be prohibited from using marijuana off duty despite the move to legalize it in New New York.
Thomas Mungeer, president of the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association, said he has heard no clamor by rank-and-file troopers to be allowed to use pot off-duty.
"As it is still illegal federally, I don't think I have bargaining room to even worry about it at this time," Mungeer said. He noted the union's current contract with the state doesn't expire until 2023. He said his personal opinion is to keep the current prohibition in place for police officers.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.