Opting In or Out – That is the Question

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A friend of mine, let’s call him Steve, has illegally gotten pot ever since he was a kid. Now in his sixties, there’s a good possibility that he can walk into a store in New York and buy it legally soon.

There are a lot of people like Steve out there.

“Oh man, I can’t imagine what it’s gonna be like,” Steve said while discussing legal purchasing. “I’ve been doing it underground for so long, I’ll probably still be looking over my shoulder on my way out, even though I’ll have a receipt.”

New York State is hoping there are many Steves out there needing a lot of those receipts. The politicians are estimating pot sales will reach $3.2 billion a year. Of course, they are more interested in the 13 percent tax revenue that will be generated. Still, that’s a lot of legal hooch.

Steve read about the law that took effect in April 2021, allowing New York State residents over 21 to legally possess and consume marijuana. Adults can possess up to three ounces of weed and 24 grams of edibles on their person. You can possess up to five pounds in your home or on your property (that’s 80 ounces).

“I don’t know about you,” Steve said, “but I’ve never even seen three ounces of weed in one place, let alone carried it with me. I know what an ounce of weed in a plastic bag looks like. I can’t imagine where I would even put 80 bags in my house.”

Individual counties, villages, and towns that sell the legal pot will share 4 percent of the 13 percent tax revenue as part of their local taxes. Yet, some places on Long Island are deciding not to allow the sale and usage of pot.

“They must be crazy,” Steve said, “Don’t they know their residents will just go to the next town to buy weed? I’ve gone all the way to The Bronx when I had to.”

Of course, legally buying pot over the counter doesn’t become a reality until sometime in September 2022. That’s the deadline for the State Legislature to adopt regulations for the usage and distribution of cannabis to the public. Since no one knows what those regulations may look like, local authorities have the option to “opt-out” of allowing the sale and usage of cannabis in their villages or towns.

But there’s a catch–if you don’t opt-out by the end of 2021, you can never opt-out. However, if you do decide to opt-out, you can opt back in at any time.

If a town decides to opt-out, pot smokers will undoubtedly spend their money at the “Cannabis Café” in the next town. “I know I will, man,” said Steve. “Then, I’ll head across the street to McDonald’s or 7-11 for munch items before I head home to watch Netflix.”

Like cigarettes, you can only smoke weed in designated smoking areas, like outside next to the nearest dumpster. Unlike cigarettes, you can’t smoke cannabis in your car. You can possess it in your vehicle, but don’t drive across state lines because that is illegal.
Maybe it seems prudent for towns and villages to opt-out before the end of the year so they can wait for the regulations to be finalized and make an informed decision. However, towns and municipalities that are preparing to hit the ground running next September will have a financial advantage over those that did not. Once people start developing their purchasing habits, it may take a while for them to change.

But will the lure of legal weed end the clandestine nature of purchasing pot for long-time users? “I’ve had a relationship with my guy for years,” said Steve. “I’m not sure that I’ll ever not have that relationship. But I’m kind of looking forward to buying gummy bears, man.”

With or without a receipt.