Advocate asks city to re-consider retail pot sales


A leading advocate for the retail sale of marijuana in Long Beach is circulating a petition calling on the city council to allow for the legal use of cannabis as a way to help raise revenues at a time of a double-digit tax increase for the new fiscal year.

Beryl Solomon-Jackowitz, 43, of Long Beach, who has spoken out at city council meetings in favor of retail marijuana sales and owns an e-commerce business called Popular, which sells a variety of hemp-based products, said in an announcement that council members are “not happy” about the tax increase, which is about 12.74 percent, the highest in years. She said also that council members “are exploring all options to help with this budget crises.”

But, Solomon-Jackowitz said, “This is just not true. City Council and the acting City Manager have done nothing since January to advance the cannabis conversation.”

The council last year voted unanimously to opt out of a New York State program to allow retail marijuana sales. The council can decide to opt into the program at a later date.  Solomon-Jackowitz said the petition has been circulating in the city. She said the council voted to opt out before the state had established regulations for retail sales. Reconsideration by the council is now necessary, she said, since rules have been laid out.

Recently, the village of Lake Success did not opt out of the state marijuana program. But no other Nassau County, municipalities have voted to opt into the state dispensary program. But in Suffolk, Babylon, Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton have voted to allow retail sales.

In her statement, Solomon-Jackowitz said that “Experts predict that opting in could generate more than $400,000 in additional tax revenue – just in one year. The total contribution over the next five years could be more than $6 million.”

Her figures are hotly disputed by Judy Vining, executive director of Long Beach Aware, an educational organization dedicated to preventing substance abuse among young people.

Vining, citing comments from the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, said the marijuana dispensaries will see absolutely no profits within the first three years of opening because of start-up costs.

Additionally, she said, dispensaries would cost municipalities additional funding for extra law-enforcement patrols and social service costs.

“No money will be seen by the City of Long Beach or anybody else for the first three years,” Vining said.

Retail dispensaries have opened up, including in New York City and in upstate areas as well. The state predicts that more will open in the coming months.

But Solomon-Jackowitz said that Long Beach is being stubborn in its view.

“In a city struggling to balance a budget it is borderline reckless that our leadership is not thoroughly exploring every opportunity to generate additional revenue,” Solomon-Jackowitz said. “That is why the constituents of Long Beach have come together with a petition to encourage the city council to hold a meeting to hear the community’s case for regulated cannabis in our city,” she said.

In 2012, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing recreational marijuana use in the state by adults 21 and older, following approval by the state senate and assembly. Adults can also possess up to three ounces of pot and24 grams of cannabis concentrate  Adults can grow six mature and six imm