Customers at Apothecarium Dispensary in Maplewood, New Jersey, in April.

Customers at Apothecarium Dispensary in Maplewood, New Jersey, in April. Credit: Getty Images/Michael M. Santiago

Up to 20 of New York State's first 150 legal adult-use cannabis dispensaries are slated to be on Long Island. If nothing changes, they will all be clustered in four locations in Suffolk County — the towns of Southampton, Riverhead, Babylon, and Brookhaven. Although the opt-in deadline was last December, there is still time for Long Island's other municipalities to reconsider their stances to ensure that safe and legal dispensaries are accessible and regulated.

I can understand elected leaders’ apprehensions. I’m a PTA mom with two elementary school-aged boys. I do not want my sons (or any children) to have access to cannabis. However, a local dispensary will not increase underage access to cannabis. The ultimate goal of legalization is to put the illicit market, which is more accessible to minors, out of business. Legalization and regulated dispensaries actually make cannabis harder for minors to obtain.

Illicit cannabis dealers and unlicensed retail stores do not require state-issued identification. They are not responsible for proper labeling. They do not verify scientific testing results. They are not accountable for compliance with state-approved security plans. All legal, regulated cannabis retailers need to do this … and much more to operate.

Some municipalities believed that opting out of cannabis dispensaries was synonymous with opting out of local cannabis use. Obviously, that is a non-sequitur. Cannabis is here. It is legal to consume cannabis all across New York. We must acknowledge this fact in order to fashion a productive way forward for our communities and our economy.

By taking cannabis sales out of the shadows and allowing for accessible, local, highly regulated dispensaries, Long Island municipalities will increase tax revenue, add jobs, and ensure that our communities are safe and secure. Unless we approve local dispensaries, Long Island residents will go elsewhere, and Long Island will forgo millions of revenue dollars and relinquish the opportunity to control important aspects of the local cannabis market.

The Long Island Association predicts that legalization will increase Long Island’s economic output by $878 million annually. Sales will generate 7,316 new jobs, $317 million in employee compensation, and $683 million in additional revenue for businesses located near dispensaries. Legal cannabis can be an economic boon for our communities.

Consider New Jersey: On April 21, 2022, the first day of legal adult-use cannabis sales, retail sales reached $1.9 million. In just the first 71 days, additional tax revenue exceeded $4.6 million.

I heartily respect our community leaders’ measured approach, waiting to opt in until the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has adopted the principal regulatory scheme. We have reached that point. Now is the time to opt in for all the right reasons.

As a Long Beach resident and a career entrepreneur, I am so proud that my city is actively exploring the real issues. Based on my experience, Long Beach residents favor a safe, local, and discreet cannabis retail store, while adding millions of dollars of tax revenue. In fact, Long Islanders overwhelmingly support the legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana, with 69.8% in favor and 24.4% opposed.

OCM is regularly approving new conditional cannabis cultivators and processors. Applications for the first round of licenses for Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries are in process. A responsible New York industry is growing before our eyes. Let’s act now and ensure that Long Island participates in a safe, legal, revenue-generating cannabis market. 

This guest essay reflects the views of Beryl Solomon Jackowitz, a cannabis advocate and founder of Poplar, an online health and wellness retail site that sells hemp-derived CBD products.

This guest essay reflects the views of Beryl Solomon Jackowitz, a cannabis advocate and founder of Poplar, an online health and wellness retail site that sells hemp-derived CBD products.