If marijuana legalized, counties say state needs to provide funding for strain on local governments

Posted 12 March 2019 at 7:04 pm

Press Release, NYS Association of Counties

As state leaders continue to negotiate legislation to legalize adult use cannabis in New York State, county governments are emphasizing the local impact of this policy.

Regardless of which level of government opts in to legalized marijuana, it will be county government programs and services that bear the impact of legalization in our communities.

“Public policy ought to be about doing the public good,” said Stephen Acquario, executive director of NYSAC. “No harm to the public should be done. 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.”

If the resources to support legalization are not there, the state should focus on decriminalization and undoing the damage caused to communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana charges. That is a worthy goal, and one that helps to uplift our communities.

“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,” said Chuck Nesbitt, NYSAC president and Orleans County chief administrative officer. “In every region of the state, these programs and services are provided by counties.”

Legalizing adult-use marijuana requires the funding to do so responsibly, with proper local support in place. Without sufficient revenue to support the services that ensure public health and safety, counties are not willing to take this gamble. We simply can’t afford to.

The bottom line is that it’s better to have no policy than shortsighted policy.

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