Going green

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(NEWS10) — As New York prepares to go green following the legalization of adult use marijuana, lawmakers don’t have to look too far for some cannabis infused inspiration. Recreational pot is proving to be a successful “high” for the Bay State. In November of 2016 voters in Massachusetts approved “question 4” and cannabis became legal for adults 21 and over to grow and possess.

The first recreational marijuana shops opened two years later. And even though legitimate concerns existed, people soon realized the sky wasn’t falling.  

State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield said, “The world did not stop spinning because we have recreational marijuana in Massachusetts.” 

“Hands down, the responsive is massive. They love us here,” says Canna Provisions CEO Meg Sanders.

Sanders owns Canna Provisions in Lee, Massachusetts. Nine years ago she worked directly with the governor of Colorado to develop its updated cannabis laws, and then led the way by opening one of the first recreational dispensaries in the country. Colorado and Washington State were the first to legalize adult-use in 2012.

David Martinez
General manager David Martinez labels containers of retail marijuana, behind a sales bar fitted with a brochure available to customers, at 3D Cannabis Center in Denver, Tuesday Dec. 31, 2013. Colorado is making final preparations for marijuana sales to begin Jan. 1, a day some are calling “Green Wednesday.” The 3D Cannabis Center will be open as a recreational retail outlet on New Year’s Day. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

“We focus very hard on becoming part of the communities so that everyone knows who we are. We take the mystery out of it. We take the, ‘oh my gosh what’s happening behind those doors!’ and we’ve given lots of tours to state and city officials,” Sanders said.      

Once the mystery is taken out of it and local leaders are comfortable with a shop’s safety and security, no one argues about the financial benefits. And while the money coming in is not a silver bullet, it’s a major source of revenue that didn’t exist before.

Pittsfield City Councilor At-Large Earl Persip said, “The state takes the majority of the taxes. But it does help with certain things. We’ve put it into a revolving fund for road construction and public services.” 

“We’re looking at, in 2020, I believe just north of $500,000 in revenue. And then there’s a separate revenue stream from a ‘host community impact fee,’ and that so far has been about $165,000 for Pittsfield. That’s for Pittsfield,” Farley-Bouvier says.     

And, as they saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

“Overall, we bring a lot of people to town with money in their pocket. They end up buying lunch or buying dinner or staying overnight and shopping in the stores,” Sanders said.

Meg Sanders was consulted and helped draft New York’s medical marijuana law. She’s been busy with her operation in Berkshire County and did not have a hand in the just-passed marijuana regulation and taxation act.

She hopes those who were negatively impacted by the drug war are moved to the front of the line when it comes to obtaining a license.

She said, “What I always say to any state that’s coming online is, please make sure that you put equity, and people that have been disproportionately affected by the drug war, first.”

At first glance, New York’s bill aims to do just that.

“A social and economic equity program will facilitate individuals disproportionally impacted by cannabis enforcement, including creating a goal of 50% of licenses to go to a minority or woman owned business enterprise, or distressed farmers or service-disabled veterans to encourage participation in the industry.”

NYS  Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act

We reached out to several law enforcement agencies across Berkshire County for comment, including the DA’s office. No one would accept our invitation to go on camera. But, Craig Desantis, the chief of police in Lee Massachusetts, has told us in the past that he has his doubts and still does. But when it comes to impaired driving, he hasn’t seen an uptick.

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