“Now. Before I begin the lesson, will those of you who are playing in the match this afternoon move your clothes down onto the lower peg immediately after lunch, before you write your letter home, if you’re not getting your hair cut, unless you’ve got a younger brother who is going out this weekend as the guest of another boy, in which case, collect his note before lunch, put it in your letter after you’ve had your hair cut, and make sure he moves your clothes down onto the lower peg for you.”
That’s a scene in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, another in the troupe’s pantheon of industrial-grade caustic observation on the absurdity of rule-making.
Welcome, then, to Albany’s convoluted “plan” for the legal sale of marijuana. We support the legal sale of the product; after all, the stuff has been available for decades on the sly and, as one thoughtful speaker said at the Cooperstown Board of Trustees’ recent public hearing on the December 20 vote, when you’re looking for pot on the downlow, chances are the seller is going to try to find some insidious way to introduce you to more dangerous things like cocaine, heroin, and/or fentanyl.
Dispensaries made legal in next-door Massachusetts operate with precision; clean with no direct access to product, entry to the building and purchase controlled strictly with identification checks. It’s a fine model that should allay the fears of those who think that a dispensary in town would lead to unfettered access to drugs.
Albany’s kick-the-can-down-the-road lawmaking leaves every municipality in the state facing a ridiculous choice, all in the name of “local control.” They don’t want to be the ones to make this decision, that’s all.
Here’s what they left us: Local jurisdictions must, by December 31, 2021, affirmatively vote to opt OUT of being able to have dispensaries and/or pot lounges within their borders. If they don’t, they’re deemed to have opted IN with no chance of ever again reversing that decision. But if they opt OUT by December 31, 2021, those same localities can opt back IN through a permissive referendum or some other vehicle. And once they’re in, they’re in for good. Got that?
No one in the state yet knows exactly what it is they’d be opting IN to. The state’s Cannabis Control Board, created through meatball language crammed at the last minute into last year’s state budget, has yet to establish the regulations that municipalities, pot dispensaries, pot lounges, or anyone else involved with the business would be required to follow. No one knows exactly what Albany has in mind including, probably, Albany.
Historically, our state’s Legislature passes bills demanding deep disclosure of every term and condition that might come along with the sale of a product, a service, a meal, or anything else. Here, however, they’ve left the instruction manual blank. No disclosure. No terms and conditions. We’ll tell you about those later, they say, but you need to make up your mind now.
That’s all we need to know to support the opt out resolution facing Cooperstown’s Board of Trustees. When the state Legislature hands a blank check to something like a Cannabis Control Board, they cede massive authority that runs somewhat unchecked. They’ve done it for decades — pass a law with an overarching goal (i.e., “legalize pot”) and then utterly abrogate its obligation to explain what, exactly, they mean (i.e., “over to you, CCB!”). They leave it to increasingly powerful state agencies or panels they create out of thin air.
Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh is correct to take the opt out route at this time. It’s the only avenue the state has made available to allow for the public to decide — and, for Cooperstown anyway, a permissive referendum could be on the ballot in March 2022.
We do not oppose the legal sale of pot in carefully regulated dispensaries; depending on the shape the elusive rules and regs might take, we do not rule out support for dispensaries within Village limits. We do, however, oppose buying into something that could turn out to be different from that which they originally sold.