Just Say ‘No!’ To Drugs

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Marijuana - Photo by atroszko from FreeImages

On March 31, 2021, then Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA). According to the official State website, “The legislation created a new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) governed by a Cannabis Control Board to comprehensively regulate adult-use, medical, and hemp cannabis. The OCM will issue licenses and develop regulations outlining how and when businesses can participate in the new industry.”

What does this mean?

Well, there are several gears in motion here. The first pertains to private use by adults. Here, the State says “The Office of Cannabis Management needs to draft and issue regulations to implement the law before adult-use sales can begin. However, while there are currently no stores open to purchase adult-use cannabis, the possession and use of cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older in accordance with the MRTA, is now legal.”

You’re probably aware that there are public hearings concerning whether individual municipalities will “opt-out” of the State’s law. The opt-out provision, however, is limited.

The State spells these limits out quite specifically. It says, “Cities, towns, and villages can opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses from locating within their jurisdictions. Municipalities cannot opt-out of adult-use legalization.”

The bottom-line: while municipalities can prohibit retail sales and public consumption, they cannot prevent citizens from consuming the drug in their own homes.

It’s important to understand what your town or village can and cannot do. People will be allowed to partake of marijuana (the State spells it both with a “j” and with an “h”) in the privacy of their own homes. Local officials cannot prevent this.

Local officials can prevent the public sale and use of the narcotic. This is what opting out refers to. According to the State, “To opt-out of allowing adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries or on-site consumption licenses, a municipality must pass a local law by December 31, 2021.”

It’s important to note, however, the State says, “If a municipality does not opt-out by December 31, 2021, the municipality will be unable to opt-out at a future date. However, a municipality may opt back in, to allow either, or both, adult-use retail dispensary or on-site consumption license types by repealing the local law which established the prohibition.”

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. If your local officials pass a law to opt out, the law does not become effective unless you vote in favor of the permissive referendum endorsing that law.

So, ultimately, the decision to say “No!” to drugs is up to you, not your elected officials. All they are deciding is whether or not you should have the opportunity to exercise this choice.

In this very simple sense, the decision to opt-out on the part of your local elected officials seems like the obvious choice. After all, they merely represent the voters, they don’t rule over the voters. And, in the case of the MRTA, New York State has given the members of the community the responsibility for making the decision.

Furthermore, at this point, the citizen’s personal decision to vote to opt-out is also a no-brainer.

This has nothing to do with concerns about the potential negative effects of marijuana legalization in other states. Indeed, the Cato Institute concludes in its 2021 study on the subject, “Limited post‐​legalization data prevent us from ruling out that marijuana legalization causes small changes in marijuana use or other outcomes. As additional data become available, expanding this analysis will continue to inform debates surrounding marijuana reform. The data so far, however, provide little support for the strong claims about legalization made by either opponents or supporters; the notable exception is tax revenue, which has exceeded some expectations. The absence of significant adverse consequences is especially striking given the sometimes‐​dire predictions made by legalization opponents.”

The reason to vote in favor of opting out is much simpler.

Although the law was passed in March, the rules have been slow in coming. Add to that the 60-day comment and you will find that we won’t know the final wording of the rules until just before the December 31 deadline (and in at least one case, well after this deadline).”

Why take a chance in having your municipality opt-in before you know the final rules? That’s why it makes sense to opt-out at least for now. You can always opt-in later, but you can’t opt-out once you opt-in. At this point, New York State is asking you to sign a contract before you’ve had a chance to read the wording.

Now, there is one argument some have used for opting in, and you can thank New York lawmakers for this. If you opt-in, New York State will give you a cut of the tax revenues.

The devil entices in many ways, but fame and fortune stand as the most popular temptations. The State hopes the allure of money, in this case tax revenues, may be just enough to convince those who might ordinarily be wary of signing a blank contract to set aside common sense.

Be smart.

Just say “No!” to drugs.

You can always change your mind later.

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