A manager at a cannabis dispensary holds a marijuana sample.

A manager at a cannabis dispensary holds a marijuana sample. Credit: AP/Jeff Chiu

The legalization of adult-use cannabis in New York State in 2021 was a historic and progressive move that promised to create new opportunities for economic growth, social justice, and public health. The law also established a framework for the regulation and taxation of cannabis products, with a portion of the revenue dedicated to supporting small farmers, minority-owned businesses, and communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

However, not everyone is on board with the cannabis legalization. Many Long Island towns, including Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Smithtown and Huntington, have opted out of allowing cannabis dispensaries within their jurisdictions, citing concerns about potential impacts on public safety, youth access, and community character. These towns have effectively denied their residents the opportunity to access legal cannabis products and have put them at a competitive disadvantage with other consumers in the state. They also make it harder for someone like me who is planning to apply for a cannabis dispensary license.

One issue that has arisen as a result of the opt-outs is the proliferation of smoke shops and vape stores plaguing Main Streets all across Long Island. The shops are selling unregulated product over the counter to minors, generating revenue that goes untaxed and is not tested at all for other known substances. The Department of Finance and Taxation has recently been granted powers to go after these unregulated shops/businesses, but enough is enough in terms of not allowing actual regulated dispensaries to open up.

This decision is not only unfair to consumers, but also to the small farmers who grow cannabis and hemp here on Long Island. These farmers have invested time, money, and labor into cultivating a crop that is in high demand and has many benefits for the environment, individual health, and overall wellness. By opting out of allowing cannabis dispensaries, these towns are limiting the market for these farmers and forcing them to sell their products elsewhere unregulated or simply sit on surplus until it becomes expired. This undermines one goal of the cannabis legalization law to support small farmers and create a diverse and equitable cannabis industry in New York State.

Long Island towns that opted out of allowing cannabis dispensaries should reconsider their stance and repeal their opt-outs. By doing so, they will not only respect the opinion of the majority of New Yorkers polled who support cannabis legalization, but also support the small farmers who are vital to the economy and culture of Long Island. Cannabis dispensaries can be regulated and operated in a safe and responsible manner that preserves the community character and addresses the concerns of the residents. There is no reason to fear or reject cannabis dispensaries; instead, it's time to embrace them as an opportunity for growth, innovation, and prosperity.

Opt-out towns should listen to their constituents, farmers, and fellow New Yorkers and repeal their opt-outs. Residents of these towns should voice their support for cannabis dispensaries and demand that their local officials respect their rights and interests. Cannabis legalization is a historic opportunity for New York State to create a thriving and inclusive cannabis industry that benefits everyone. Let's not allow fear and misinformation to stand in the way of progress and prosperity. Let's support our small farmers and embrace cannabis dispensaries on Long Island.

This guest essay reflects the views of Jeffrey Roizman, a Huntington resident and account coordinator for a Hauppauge service company.

This guest essay reflects the views of Jeffrey Roizman, a Huntington resident and account coordinator for a Hauppauge service company.

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