Mineola’s Board of Trustees has recently scheduled a public hearing for Oct. 13 to discuss “opting-out” of licensing and establishing retail cannabis dispensaries and onsite cannabis consumption establishments within the village. While I am not surprised by this action—many other villages throughout Nassau County have taken similar measures—I believe the board should resist the urge to pass or sign into law any resolution that aims to impede legal access to cannabis within the village of Mineola.
Such laws have been demonstrated to be arbitrary, counterproductive to protecting public health and can ultimately cause more harm to our community than they wish to prevent. To articulate this point, please consider the following:
The Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act legalizes the use of cannabis almost anywhere tobacco may be consumed. While the village can “opt-out” of cannabis retail sales and on-site consumption establishments, it cannot prohibit the general consumption of cannabis. With or without local cannabis retail stores, users will still be able to consume cannabis in Mineola.
Villages cannot “opt-out” of residential delivery or home cultivation of cannabis. MRTA allows cannabis and cannabis products to be delivered directly to consumers. This means Mineola consumers could purchase cannabis from jurisdictions that permit retail sales and have it delivered to their Mineola residence. Additionally, consumers will eventually be permitted to grow up to six cannabis plants within their homes. Villages are not permitted to pre-empt or “opt-out” of either residential delivery or home cultivation. As a result, a village ban on cannabis retail stores would be effectively circumvented and rendered moot.
Prohibiting licensed cannabis retail stores within the village can lead to increased underage access and force consumers to utilize less safe products. Under MRTA, cannabis retail stores are mandated to prevent the sale and/or diversion of cannabis to minors. Stores are required to collect valid proof of age for every transaction. Those under the age of 21 years cannot even step foot inside a cannabis store—a requirement that does not exist for liquor or tobacco stores.
Additionally, cannabis retail stores may only carry products that are laboratory tested and must provide laboratory test reports for each cannabis product offered for sale to cannabis consumers. By prohibiting licensed cannabis retail stores, consumers in the village may seek to obtain cannabis through the illicit market, a market that operates outside the law and without the safeguards necessary to prevent underage usage or the sale of unsafe products. An increase in the consumption of synthetic cannabis (K2) and Delta 8 THC is also a reasonable expectation.
Prohibiting cannabis retail stores and on-site consumption establishments will prevent Mineola residents from pursuing social and economic equity opportunities created under MRTA within their own community. MRTA has codified provisions that promote racial, ethnic and gender diversity and ensure the inclusion of individuals disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition in commerce, ownership and employment opportunities within the adult-use cannabis industry. Should the village “opt-out” of cannabis retail sales and on-site consumption establishments, Mineola residents seeking social and economic equity in the adult-use cannabis industry will be unable to realize these opportunities within their own community.
Mineola can use tax revenue collected from cannabis sales to fund youth prevention programs. Under MRTA, a local excise tax is imposed on the sale of cannabis products at 4 percent of the products’ price. This tax is distributed to local governments based on where the retail cannabis store is located. Should Mineola allow cannabis retail sales within its jurisdiction, I recommend utilizing this additional revenue to fund local youth-focused prevention programs that can reduce the risk of cannabis and other substance use by school-aged children. If the town board decides to “opt-out,” Mineola would not be entitled to any of this potential new revenue.
I do not consume cannabis personally—it’s just not for me. However, I support responsible adult consumption of cannabis, whether for medical or recreational purposes. In a society that tolerates alcohol and tobacco consumption, I find it hypocritical and counterintuitive to chastise cannabis use when studies demonstrate it is an arguably less dangerous substance.
Now that MRTA has legalized cannabis consumption in New York, I believe it is our responsibility to promote safe, legal and responsible access to cannabis while ensuring the necessary safeguards exist to prevent underage use. Mineola has the ability to proactively regulate licensed cannabis stores through zoning laws. Since the village is empowered to define the time, place and manner of operations for licensed cannabis retail stores, I propose utilizing the “special-use permit” process to gain reasonable assurance of a store’s ability to restrict and prevent underage access to cannabis.
Finally, I wish to reflect on certain similarities between cannabis legalization and the end of liquor prohibition in the 1930s. I’m sure many local leaders of the time held very similar concerns over the proliferation of alcohol. Some states even continued prohibition to abate such fears and concerns. And what good came of prohibition? We know it caused more criminal activity; we know it resulted in bootlegging; we know it was virtually impossible to enforce; and we know the high price of bootleg liquor ultimately hit the middle-class the hardest.
Whenever there is demand for a product, the market will find the supply. The one question remaining is whether we choose to control the supply or allow the supply to control us. I personally believe we should control cannabis in a way that allows access to responsible adults without it getting into the hands of our children.