© 2021 WRVO Public Media
bg.jpg
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Politics and Government

For cannabis activists, NY legalization a ‘big deal,’ state senator explains why he voted no

gary_colmey.jpg
Gary Colmey
/
Gary’s Indoor Garden Supply in Rome celebrates marijuana legalization.";

Marijuana activists have waited years for New York state to finally make cannabis legal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law last week. But some opponents have concerns with how the government will run the rollout.

Gary Colmey is a cannabis activist and the owner of Gary’s Indoor Garden Supply in Rome. He said watching the state Assembly and Senate debates on marijuana legalization last week, was historic and something he’ll always remember.

“The gavel came down and I was in my living room with tears streaming down my face,” Colmey said. “It represents so much more than pot’s legal now. If you are privy, if you are savvy about the people that have paved the way for this, about how long it took for this to happen, the people who have died for it, the people who have gone to jail for it, yeah, it’s a big deal.”

He said throughout history, marijuana has been used to persecute certain groups of people, especially people of color.

“Did we know it wasn’t about the drugs? Of course we did,” Colmey said. “And I’m so amazingly happy and proud that we’ve put that behind us. Bravo.”

Colmey got a call from Mohawk Valley state Sen. Joe Griffo, congratulating him on marijuana legalization, even though Griffo voted against it. Colmey was on a panel convened by Griffo, with people on both sides of the issue.

Griffo said one of his concerns with legalization is the creation of a Cannabis Control Board, which is responsible for regulating the cannabis programs. The Board will consist of three members appointed by the governor and one member by each house of the Legislature. Griffo said the Board will be making major policy decisions without accountability, after they’ve been appointed.

“I’ve never been someone who is supportive of this type of quasi-governmental authority,” Griffo said.

The Control Board and the new Office of Cannabis Management will oversee the licenses for marijuana production, distribution and dispensaries. The revenue generated from the sales tax on the drug, projected at $350 million annually, will go towards public education, drug treatment, and communities disproportionately affected by past drug policies. Griffo said that revenue projection is questionable and shouldn’t be used to rationalize a policy.