The town of Huntington is facing a historic opportunity to join the growing movement of legalizing and regulating cannabis for adult use. By opting into cannabis sales and on-site consumption lounges, Huntington can reap the benefits of increased tax revenue, job creation, public health, and social justice.
Cannabis sales and lounges are not a new or radical idea. In fact, they are already operating successfully in several states and countries, such as Colorado, California, Canada, and Uruguay. These places have shown that legalizing and regulating cannabis can generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, create thousands of jobs, reduce the black market, and improve public safety.
According to a recent report by the New York State Department of Health, legalizing cannabis for adult use could generate up to $678.7 million in annual tax revenue for the state, and up to $3.5 billion in economic activity. A portion of this revenue could be allocated to the town of Huntington, which could use it to fund essential services, such as education, health care, infrastructure, and public safety.
Cannabis sales and lounges would also create new opportunities for local entrepreneurs, farmers, and workers. The cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country, with an estimated 321,000 full-time jobs as of 2020. By opting into cannabis sales and lounges, Huntington could attract and support new businesses, stimulate the local economy, and diversify its revenue sources.
Moreover, cannabis sales and lounges would enhance public health and social justice in Huntington. By regulating cannabis, the town could ensure that the products are tested, labeled, and safe for consumers, and that the businesses are licensed, accountable, and responsible. By allowing on-site consumption lounges, the town could provide a safe and legal space for adults to enjoy cannabis, without exposing them to the risks of smoking in public or driving under the influence.
Additionally, cannabis sales and lounges would help address the racial and social disparities that have resulted from the war on drugs. According to the ACLU, Black people are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people in New York, despite similar usage rates. By legalizing cannabis, the town could reduce the number of arrests, convictions, and incarcerations for cannabis-related offenses, and expunge the records of those who have been unfairly criminalized.
One of the key factors that will determine the success of cannabis sales and lounges in Huntington is the zoning policy. The town should opt in with little to no zoning restrictions, to allow the cannabis businesses to operate in a fair and competitive market, and to avoid creating unnecessary barriers for the consumers. Zoning restrictions could limit the number, location, and size of cannabis businesses, and create a monopoly for a few privileged players. This could reduce the quality, variety, and affordability of cannabis products, and discourage the consumers from accessing the legal market.
Another reason why Huntington should opt in to cannabis sales and lounges is to prevent the enrichment of the illegal market. By staying opt out, the town would miss the opportunity to regulate and tax cannabis, and to provide a safe and legal alternative for the consumers. This would leave the cannabis market in the hands of the illicit dealers, who do not pay taxes, follow safety standards, or check the age or identity of the buyers. The illegal market could also be linked to other criminal activities, such as violence, trafficking, and money laundering. By opting in to cannabis sales and lounges, the town could weaken the illegal market, and redirect the money and resources to the legal and legitimate businesses and services.
Cannabis sales and lounges are not a threat to Huntington, but an opportunity. By opting into cannabis sales and lounges, Huntington can position itself as a progressive, innovative, and inclusive town that respects the rights and choices of its residents, and that embraces the potential of a new and promising industry. Huntington should not miss this chance to make history and to make a difference.
Jeffrey Roizman lives in East Northport and has applied for a legal cannabis business license with the state’s Office of Canmabis Management.