LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Penn Yan should 'opt out' on marijuana sales

Letter to the Editor

I am writing to urge the Penn Yan Village Board to opt out of allowing marijuana shop and on site smoking lounge licenses in the village and to urge members of the community to contact board members in support of opting out. If we don’t opt out by Dec. 31 of this year we’ll never have the chance. State law fixes the Dec. 31 deadline and states that after that date we may never opt out. Local discretion is gone.

From what I know of the community, I think a significant majority do not want a marijuana store or smoking lounge here. If I’m wrong, those in favor of them may petition for a permissive referendum and if they get enough signatures then we all get the chance to vote. This will give the community as a whole the right to decide.

At the recent board hearing, some argued that the new marijuana stores and on-site smoking lounges will be regulated, the implication being they’ll be squeaky clean and not a blight on the community. We can’t know that and if they’re not and, we don’t opt out we’ll have no local means to deal with them. We do know that marijuana use has in some cases been very damaging and in general of no benefit to the users or the community. Will putting a marijuana store or smoking lounge here make it any better?

Big money, venture capital, is likely to dominate the marijuana sales industry and they will be looking for profits, not community values.

Speaking of money, some at the board hearing opposed opting out in order to get the tax revenue. The total tax is 13%, 9% to the state, 1 % to the county and 3% to the village. The tax given to the State will likely be spent elsewhere, with very little of it benefitting small towns in upstate. As for the village’s 3%, some will be spent on collection and accounting, probably not much. But what additional costs will we be paying? We don’t know but additional police costs are likely. According to my AAA bulletin just received:

“In Washington State, the share of drivers who, after a fatal crash, tested positive for active THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, doubled after the state legalized marijuana in December 2012, according to AAA research.”

How much money are we looking at anyway? If there is $1,000,000. in annual sales, which seems high, our share of the tax is $30,000. Ignoring additional costs which will almost certainly come, that’s pennies toward the village tax.

The village board is looking at zoning and other local laws to control locations, hours of operation and possibly other regulatory measures. I appreciate their efforts in this regard but by state law those measures may not be “unreasonably impracticable.” Who determines “unreasonably impracticable”? The N.Y. State Cannabis Control Board, the people who have an interest in the state’s 9% tax, NOT US. How much will it cost for the village to defend it’s regulations if a complaint is made to the CCB? Where will the hearing be held? I am unable to find the cannabis board regulations and as the last members were recently appointed it’s possible that as of now there are none. In any event, if we opt out there will not be a shop or lounge owner to challenge regulations.

We’re told that recreational marijuana is here, no matter what we do. That’s true but the less of it the better. The fact it’s here is not a reason to turn our village into a buying destination for marijuana with all that comes with it. Let’s not become a marijuana magnet.

Donald A. Schneider

Penn Yan

EDITOR’S NOTE: Letter writers are responsible for making sure the information they submit is accurate and factual.