LB Council opts out of state’s retail marijuana program


The Long Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to opt out of a New York State program that would have allowed the establishment of a dispensary to sell retail marijuana.

The council had held two public hearings in the last several weeks on the issue, with many arguing that such an establishment might lead to drug abuse in the city, while others said it would bring in much-needed revenue to the financially-struggling city.

 Council members did not tip their hands on how they might ultimately vote. But the Hempstead Town Board had voted unanimously to opt-out of legal marijuana sales.

More than a dozen Nassau County municipalities, including Island Park, Lynbrook, Rockville Centre and Freeport, have also opted out. Many who follow the city council had expected the five council members to vote to opt out. The town of Riverhead on the island’s East End had rejected a proposal to opt out.

On its website, the Rockefeller Institute of Government said that its latest count showed that 523 of the state’s 1,518 municipalities have opted out of the program under the Marijuana Regulation & Tax Act established earlier this year.

Long Beach and the other municipalities had to decide by Dec. 31 whether they wanted to opt out of the programs. But they still have the right to opt in at a later date, if they wish. If a municipality had opted in, the decision is permanent.,

The state will not be issuing licenses to open dispensaries until 2023, giving those who opted out plenty of additional time to reconsider.

Many at the Long Beach hearing said they would support holding a referendum to allow voters to decide the matter.  

Judy Vining, executive director of Long Beach AWARE, a local organization dedicated to preventing substance abuse among young people, was a proponent of holding a vote.

After the council vote she said, "I want to thank all of you, the council, for making what was a difficult, but important step in protecting our city."

She noted that the state would not issue licenses to sell marijuana until 2023 at the earliest, and so the issue should be given careful consideration since there is time. . The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act “sets out a framework that will comprehensively regulate cannabis…in a manner that will protect public health and safety, while promoting social equity and economic development,” the State Office of Cannabis says on its website. But specific rules and regulations are not laid out. The site says to “check back soon” for further details. 

“We certainly have enough of an issue with substance misuse in both our youth and adult population,” Vining had said. “Marijuana and alcohol are still the drugs of preference for youth.” 

One key detail that was in dispute at the public hearings was how much tax revenue Long Beach might collect. Some advocates of retail sale say legalized marijuana dispensaries would generate 3 percent sales tax for Long Beach or any local municipality and 1 percent in sales tax for Nassau County, along with 7,000 jobs throughout the county.