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Last Updated: March 12, 2019
 The following article - and more - can be found in our print edition: 

Mixed Reviews on Pot Legalization
at OB Meeting


(l-r) Legislator Josh Lafazan and Commissioner Patrick Ryder

By Loriann Cody

In a statement on Monday, March 11th, Governor Andrew Cuomo has backed off plans to include revenues from the legalization and regulation of marijuana in this year’s budget. He maintains that he is still interested in legalization, but that legislation might not be completed by April 1st, when the budget is due. Prior to this development, public listening sessions and government reports had been done at the county and town levels.

One such meeting occurred on March 6th in the evening, at Oyster Bay’s Town Hall on Audrey Avenue. The meeting was sponsored by the Nassau County Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation, a panel co-chaired by Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and County Legislator Josh Lafazan. County Executive Laura Curran has tasked the panel with educating and informing the public on the pros and cons of Cannabis legalization, holding public meeting and reporting their findings back to her office by March 15th.

Officials say legal marijuana use will be challenging, but it can also be an opportunity to promote new business ventures and raise revenue. The public mostly agrees. According to a Marist poll released on March 6th, the majority of voters in New York support legalizing marijuana 57-38 percent.

Several local politicians were present at Wednesday's meeting including Oyster Bay Councilwoman Michele Johnson, County Legislators Rose Walker, James Kennedy, Arnold Drucker and Josh Lafazan, as well as former Bayville Mayor Paul Rupp, and former Bayville Trustee Joe Russo. As this was the third and final public meeting, Police Commissioner Ryder had a prepared powerpoint presentation where he outlined the proposed bill. He also had data from Colorado showing the effects of the legalization of pot on society (crime rate, homelessness, etc.)

The legal age to consume marijuana would be 21, and tax revenue from legalizing the drug could be as much as $300 million once the plan is fully rolled out in 2023. However, the state wouldn’t see any tax revenue until 2021, when the state is expected to net just $83 million. Tax revenue at the state level will be set at 20%, but at the county level that amount is 2%. Counties and cities with populations larger than 100,000 will be given the option to opt-out (the Towns of Oyster Bay and Huntington both have over 100,000). Any municipality that opts-out will not be eligible for the tax revenues. This presents a problem, which Commissioner Ryder explained. If Nassau County opts out, but Queens opts in, Nassau residents can purchase pot in Queens, and smoke it in Nassau. They will not be prosecuted if the amount is less than 1 oz. (for leaves), and 5 grams (for concentrated oil) and the county would receive no tax revenue.

The governor also suggested that communities of color, which have been disproportionately affected by the policing of marijuana, should benefit from the economic opportunities made available by a burgeoning industry – a strategy that has been widely supported by advocacy groups and progressive lawmakers. Medical marijuana remains legal in New York state for patients who are certified by medical practitioners as having serious conditions, under the Compassionate Care Act.

Cannabis growers will be licensed and regulated, as well as co-ops, processors, distributors and retailers. Other regulations will apply.

Commissioner Ryder noted that for the last eight months or so, police are only issuing appearance tickets with a fine if a person is caught smoking pot (more or less already decriminalizing it). He did make his personal views known, “I’m a cop, of course I don’t want to see pot legalized.”
There were more than 70 or so residents that attended the meeting, and there were many questions after the presentation. Of those that asked questions or made statements, opting-out seemed to edge out those that wanted to opt-in. Residents can reach out to Legislator Lafazan and voice their opinions: (516) 571-6218 or by email: jlafazan@nassaucountyny.gov


Publisher's Column and the Letters Page