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Dear Pine Plains 8.24.21 Special Edition

8.24.2021

DEAR PINE PLAINS SPECIAL EDITION: THE MARIJUANA LAWS

Dear Pine Plains,

I am writing this Special Edition in order to make very clear what is happening around these laws for Pine Plains. I will try and make this as succinct and clear as I can as well as brief, but it is a complex issue. To whit:

  1. The State legalized marijuana this year with some important limits: licenses to open marijuana businesses would be set at an exorbitant $250,000 per license. This was very intentional to limit the number of establishments—dispensaries or lounges—in the State. In addition, only around 700 licenses will be issued, for the entire State of New York. Very key to the discussion here. There are a number of other limitations and requirements on these businesses, including ultra security measures for each.
  2. The State legislated a 13% sales tax for sales of marijuana, giving 4% to every town where it is sold. Counties receive another percentage. Sales tax collected by the Counties is distributed back to the towns which collected it. (This is different than our usual sales tax, which is distributed on a per capita basis to all towns regardless of where it is collected.) For Pine Plains, which has no real revenues, this would be a significant revenue. (How do towns make any revenue other than by taxing its citizens? Speeding tickets and grants. Stanford and Milan, for instance, make close to $1 million/year on Taconic speeding tickets. Millerton has an income from Route 22.)
  3. Marijuana would be treated like alcohol and cigarettes are—so that every law that rules alcohol/cigarette sales and use would apply to marijuana. In Pine Plains you can not openly carry liquor and drink it in public places like parks, or while walking down the street. You cannot smoke in buildings. Outside use near entrances or establishments must be regulated but heir owners.
  4. The State has mandated that a decision be made by every village, city and town as to whether they will allow a dispensary or a lounge in their jurisdiction. This decision has to be made by December 31st of this year.
  5. The decision to OPT-OUT means that a town can OPT-IN whenever it wants to. The decision to OPT-IN requires no law being passed at all. This is important to know, as it is the confusing part of all this. Pine Plains Town Board decided to present the OPT-OUT LAWS to the public in order to find out where people stand on the issue and get more feedback so that we can make an informed decision. The public hearing for that will be at the next Town Board Meeting on September 16, 2021 at 7pm. You are invited to attend. Wear a mask and socially distance.

The Town Board has done some extensive research on the issue which I have shared with you over the last few weeks in my weekly newsletter. The newsletters are stored on our website if you’d like to review a past one. At our Town Board Workshop on August 15th, we had a deep discussion with attendees about the subject. This is up on YouTube at our Town of Pine Plains site. I offered to reach out to other towns with experience with this as to the impact in their communities. I also offer some ideas around this here for contemplation. I am sure there are many more ideas out there which I welcome. But here is what I have learned so far:

Gunnison, Colorado: more of a city, 6000 people spread way out; nearest mental health services are 90 minutes away. Their mayor told me that Colorado gives a license to anybody, hence they zoned an area for dispensaries where they can do business to keep them out of their downtown.

We can zone where a dispensary might be situated. We can regulate a lounge.

He told me that they use their sales tax money to create mental health services for their community, which they are in process of doing. They also tacked on an excise tax of 5 cents per sale and use that for the same thing.

We could add an excise tax here and use it for a) a ride service for impaired drivers; b) a mental health worker who might help our police with things like homeless autistic people who need help, or domestic problems or untreated drug addictions.

Jim told me also that he has learned some valuable things about the drug. That for the most part it makes people peaceful, unlike alcohol; that its demonization led to it being tried out then widely used in the first place, because the credibility of its detractors was called out; and if that led to opiate use, the gateway was false information, not marijuana itself. He said he smelled it far less on the streets and on young people than he did before it was legalized. He has no lounges. He feels that legalization helped enormously in lowering overdose rates, as illegal marijuana was often laced with other drugs. Dealers of illegal marijuana moved into the legal growing of the plant, reducing crime. Many of his observations were truly surprising to me.

There will be more information and thoughts on this as ideas come in. We have a big decision to make in the next few months. Please help us find the best one.

Stay vocal, local Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud