Marijuana Legalization: A Challenging Opportunity


As county executive, my top priority is ensuring the safety and health of our residents — especially our children. That means anticipating challenges, such as snowstorms or critical funding for law enforcement that could dry up, before they arrive at our doorstep.. Today, it’s the potential legalization of the sale and possession of marijuana in New York State.

It is widely expected that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature will move to legalize recreational marijuana in the near future. We don’t know exactly what it will look like, but we know that it’s coming. This change will be consequential, and there will be challenges we need to address.

Legalization of recreational marijuana will have real implications for our law enforcement processes, health codes, commercial development, government tax revenue, licensing and regulation — the list goes on.

However you feel about the issue and what it means, there is something all of us can agree on: Our law enforcement, business community, schools, health officials, and residents need to be equipped with the tools and information to be prepared on day one.

That is why I have formed the Nassau County Task Force on Marijuana Legalization & Regulation.

This Task Force will bring together leaders from across the county who will focus on key local needs in advance of potential legalization, including the identification of equipment and training requirements for our officers, new public health protocols, new regulatory and licensing procedures, and tax revenue and business development implications.

The Task Force will be cochaired by Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and Nassau Legis. Josh Lafazan (D-Syosset) and will include a varied group of stakeholders, ensuring that all voices and perspectives are heard.

This will be a challenge, but it will also be an opportunity. It will be an opportunity for Nassau to lead the way in New York from day one — to promote new business opportunities and utilize new tax revenue for our residents.

Turning this into an opportunity will require hard work and preparation from leaders across the county to understand what is needed.

Given the breadth of potential impact for all county residents, the initial goal of this Task Force will be to develop a working understanding of the facts around marijuana legalization, and to accordingly pursue policy recommendations that will keep us safe while maximizing the benefits for our residents.

If and when legalization happens, Nassau will set an example for all of New York, seamlessly incorporating harm-reduction strategies and implementing a marijuana program that will absorb the regulations needed to ensure public safety, protect public health, and provide consumer protection.

I look forward to hearing from our Task Force so that we can get to work on turning this challenge into an opportunity.