Benton: Embrace New Opportunity
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Village Trustee Mac Benton said today he’s asked his fellow trustees not to “opt out” of hosting marijuana retailers in Main Street “store fronts,” as may be enabled in legislation moving “very quickly” in the state Legislature.
“It’s going to be great for businesses, it’s going to be great for farmers, it’s going to be great for racial justice,” said Benton, who today emailed a packet of information to Village Board members. “It’s going to be great for a lot of things.”
Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch said a few minutes ago that she has received Benton’s packet, and the initiative may be discussed in the “new business” segment of the agenda at this evening’s meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in Village Hall. The idea would not be voted on tonight, she said.
If and when it were to come to a vote, Benton said, he already has lined up four trustees – a majority – to support the idea, “and maybe more.”
It’s her understanding, Tillapaugh continued, that when the commercialization of marijuana bill was last considered in 2019, it only allowed counties and “major cities,” like Rochester and Syracuse, to have an opt-out option. “It’s not like every small village can make that decision,” she said.
That year, the county Board of Representatives discussed the opt-out option, but due to the opposition of what the media called “soccer moms,” the state legislation was shelved. However, Governor Cuomo did slip a provision into the 2019-20 budget – thus avoiding a vote – that allowed New Yorkers to grow plants for their own use. It also decriminalized use of small amounts of pot.
If the decision is made on the county level, Benton pointed out that many of the Republican reps “represent very rural districts with a lot of family farms that would benefit greatly from a cash crop.”
Some are already growing hemp, a similar crop, he said, which can be used for clothing, “opening the door to manufacturing jobs in Otsego County and Upstate New York,” where many jobs have been lost.
In Albany, final details are being worked out for a vote before the state’s budget is due on April 1, state Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger (D) told Bloomberg News recently.
“We are working hard on a three-way agreed upon bill that could pass the Legislature before we get to the budget,” Krueger said. “I feel like we are 95 percent there. We have taken some big steps towards getting this done.”