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Marijuana law exists, August is the time to talk about it

The Millerton News Editorial

We’re going to get straight to the point this week. We believe it is important to mention, now that August has arrived, that many of our town supervisors and mayors in the Harlem Valley are letting the public know that the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which the state of New York enacted this March, will be on their meeting agendas. 

A number of our local leaders have gone as far as reaching out to their constituents — many through regular community newsletter emails and by notifying The Millerton News — that they want to ensure residents are paying attention and will try to either attend their August board meetings in person or virtually and/or partake in any community surveys or forums that may be planned.

The MRTA legalized recreational adult-use marijuana in the Empire State. As North East town Supervisor Chris Kennan so clearly explained, now towns and villages must decide whether “to permit cannabis dispensaries in town and whether… to permit on-site cannabis consumption, otherwise known as lounges, which are two separate things.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has given municipalities a Dec. 31 deadline. According to Pine Plains town Supervisor Darrah Cloud, he’s “pressuring” them to make a decision sooner rather than later. 

She explained that the drug would be “consumed in specifically licensed places the way bars do alcohol [and] sold in a dispensary, which would be regulated exactly like our liquor store,” adding that “zoning would regulate where and what hours these entities would be open.”

According to Kennan, “cannabis sales will be subject to a 4% local sales tax, of which municipalities will retain 75%.”

Residents and business owners should keep in mind some of that money will likely be spent on more local policing, which undoubtedly will be needed if lounges open up along with marijuana dispensaries.  

There are many factors for folks to consider when it comes to bringing pot into our communities — beyond a possible uptick in crime and violence. How will it affect drug-use rates among our youth? How will it affect those already struggling with addiction issues? How will it affect those who are struggling with mental health issues? How will it affect the physical health of our residents? How will it affect local road safety, and possible increases in Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) arrests?

There are also positives to mull over, namely the tax revenue that could be generated and go toward important community projects. For instance, could money earned from selling legalized marijuana in Millerton help fund the wastewater system the village so desperately needs? Remember, a wastewater system could catapult Millerton into its next phase of economic development — one that could potentially lure that elusive grocery store. Of course, we’re talking in “what-ifs” here, but you get the gist.

The point is, this August, we hope you will keep watch for your Town or Village Board when they are ready to discuss the MRTA. We think this is one of those issues that is incredibly important to weigh in on now, while you have the chance.  

So if you’re concerned your hometown could end up with a marijuana dispensary or lounge where problems may arise, come Dec. 31, it will be too late to opt out. However, municipalities that opt out now of allowing either dispensaries or lounges — or both — can always decide to opt back in down the line.

On the other hand, if you want to ensure the creation of safe and legal marijuana dispensaries and lounges that are responsibly run in your communities — then August is the time to start paying attention. 

Stay tuned to The Millerton News and your local governing agencies for more information.

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