New York counties say no to legal marijuana without financial help

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The New York State Association of Counties has come against legalization of marijuana unless state lawmakers help counties pay for any added costs.

“Public policy ought to be about doing the public good. No harm to the public should be done,” association Executive Director Stephen Acquario said in a statement released Tuesday. “Will taxpayers once again end up subsidizing the long-term effects of this industry in our communities? If the state opts in to authorize adult use cannabis, counties need state resources to support any policy change from day one of the implementation.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his budget proposal for the coming year to have cannabis regulated by a new special office within the Division of Alcohol Beverage Control, and an excise tax on it would be established. Cities of 100,000 or more and any county could opt-out.

However, Cuomo this week said it’s unlikely a legalization package will be part of this year’s budget, due April 1, as no agreement on details have been reached. On Tuesday, a group of black lawmakers said they would not support legalization without steps to ensure black entrepreneurs have fair access to the industry and their communities benefit.

The counties’ association said that if resources to support legalization are not provided, the state should focus on decriminalization and “undoing the damage caused to communities
disproportionately impacted by marijuana changes.”

“If the state moves forward with legalization, it will be county governments that pay for the impact on social services, mental health departments, public safety, addiction services, public health education, traffic safety enforcement,and other local programs that have been proven to reduce the adverse effects of other legal psychoactive substances. In every region of the state, these programs and services are provided by counties,” association President Charles Nesbitt said.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said much the same thing in his state of the county address March 5. A former Stop DWI director, Picente said his personal belief is marijuana leads to use of other addictive substances but as a county executive, his concern is dealing with its related costs.

“Marijuana was always a gateway drug and I still believe it to be a gateway drug,” Picente said in an interview at his state of the county address. “At the end of the day I’m going to need more resources in law enforcement, I’m going to need more resources in treatment. It’s just a given.”

Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol has also spoken out against legalization, a position shared by the state sheriffs’
association.

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