Recreational marijuana sales still far off as legalization vote may come today
A vote could come as early as today in Albany on the marijuana legalization, which is expected to pass.
But even with an anticipated passage, don't expect to be able to by recreational marijuana in New York any time soon. It's expected to take at least a year and a half before sales will happen.
A tremendous amount of rules and regulations have to be put in place before sales begin. Also, there are still no devices able to accurately detect when a person is high, and many in the law enforcement community are afraid of an increase in accidents and fatalities. Many lawmakers are concerned over that as well.
"I'm going to be voting against the bill. It's my feeling that the issues that prevented this from passing previously – including the issue of vehicle and traffic safety laws – are being glossed over because of the need for revenue in the face of the pandemic," says state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).
That revenue is expected to be significant – about $350 million in sales tax revenues. The proposal calls for a 13% sales tax on marijuana sales -- 9% goes to the state, 3% to the city, town or village where the sale was made and 1% to the county.
Towns and villages would have the right to prohibit marijuana sales in their communities.
Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy says he doesn't want businesses selling marijuana in his village, primarily over concerns about people driving while high.
"I'm not going to sell myself out for that revenue," says Kennedy. "I believe if you need the money that bad, find other methods of bringing in revenues. Don't sell out your residents to get additional revenues."
Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki says there's also an ironic and troubling scenario that legalizing marijuana increases illegal sales.
"There will still be individuals who will sell marijuana illegally, probably for less money because they'll have a lot less overhead and they'll have more customers," says Skrynecki. "Information that we get from other states is that some of the black-market usage goes up."