From Columbia County Health Department:
May 16, 2019
For Immediate Release
The Columbia County Board of Health is asking county leaders to strongly consider banning the retail sale of marijuana throughout the county if New York State moves forward with the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
“Our charge is to look at the health of our community. We’ve just taken a big step forward with tobacco 21 and then we look to make a drug that has been illegal for a long time legal and more accessible,“ says Board President Pat DiGrigoli, adding, “it doesn’t make sense to our members.” Ms. DiGrigoli was quick to add that although the Board members present at the May meeting voted unanimously to pass a resolution supporting a ban on the retail sale of marijuana in Columbia County, the Board of Health does support the ongoing research into the positive benefits of some ingredients in marijuana for medicinal purposes.
In making their decision, the Board relied on the experience of its members, as well as a position paper published by the Nassau County Task Force and a white paper from the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC).
Legislation to legalize retail marijuana currently before both houses of the New York State Legislature contains provisions that will allow counties to opt out of permitting retail shops in their jurisdictions through local laws passed by the individual county’s governing body. Municipalities greater than 100,000 can also opt out separately from their county. The Nassau County Task Force report notes that 175 communities in Colorado opted out of retail sales when the law was enacted in that state in 2012. In
California, which enacted their law in 2016, 338 communities opted out, and in Michigan, where a retail marijuana law was enacted last year, 250 communities opted out.
“This was a very thorough discussion,” says County Public Health Director Jack Mabb. “This Board takes its charge of improving the health of the Columbia County community seriously. And they also understand that for many this is a complex issue,” he says noting that the Board discussed considerations such as marijuana as a gateway drug to other stronger and more potent drugs, the difficulty of detecting when someone is driving under marijuana’s influence, added costs to law enforcement for security around retail outlets, and what may be less than expected sales tax benefits.
Both the Governor’s proposal and the Senate and Assembly versions include anywhere from 2 to 4% of sales tax from the sale of marijuana to go to the county.
Director Mabb said the Board realizes that it may be some time before a law is passed and counties have to really consider the ramifications of legalizing retail marijuana, but given the negative impact that has been seen in other states, such as increases in emergency room visits, violent crime, and traffic accidents, the Columbia County Board of Health believes the issue is important enough to warrant early attention.