Letter: Marijuana Tax

I don’t often find myself disagreeing with the Philipstown Town Board, but it should reconsider its recent decision to propose banning marijuana sales (Opt Out on Pot? Philipstown Moves Closer to a Ban, Sept. 10).

Just last month, the board passed a sensible resolution asking Putnam County to share the annual growth in sales tax revenue with local municipalities. This revenue, a disproportionate amount of which is generated in Philipstown, is badly needed for public services, and the county government is sitting on a historic surplus. The board should apply similar reasoning to marijuana sales, since 75 percent of the tax would be shared with the municipality, setting a precedent.

As Supervisor Richard Shea pointed out, neighboring cities like Beacon and Peekskill are likely to opt in, so this decision has nothing to do with the availability of marijuana — in fact, pot has been readily accessible and widely used in New York since long before it was legalized, although policed and prosecuted unequally along racial lines. So why opt out of new tax revenue that could be put to good use, like treating the real problem of opioid addiction?

The arguments against opting in — that it will reduce property values, promote child drug use, increase crime and decrease quality of life — are based on long-debunked myths, and the claim that Philipstown can simply opt in later ignores the inertial force of government. If Philipstown bans sales now, it will likely be years before a local entrepreneur can set up shop and the town can begin collecting revenue.

New York has wisely prioritized granting licenses to those most impacted by the disastrous war on drugs, which means this ban could deny a minority business owner the chance to establish an enterprise while the market is new. If it reverses its decision, however, the slow rollout of the program on the state level means there will still be plenty of time to put in place what-ever zoning laws are necessary to ensure that any new establishment conforms to community standards and goals.

Jeff Mikkelson, Cold Spring

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