Albany Times Union. August 27, 2023.
Editorial: New York’s marijuana mess
Two and a half years after the state legalized marijuana, the retail program is barely off the ground and in legal jeopardy
We’re compelled to ask, not entirely tongue in cheek: What are state officials in charge of establishing a recreational marijuana industry in New York smoking?
OK, maybe that’s unfair. Selling marijuana is complicated. Just ask the foreign cartel lords, the domestic growers, the street dealers, the college students and high schoolers (and even middle schoolers) who long made illicit fortunes, or at least extra money for music and gas, operating in the shadows and under the constant threat of arrest.
What organized crime — and even disorganized crime — could make an easy buck at, the state of New York has managed to turn into a bureaucratic mess.
The latest setback came a week ago in a court injunction that halted the licensing of marijuana stores while a legal challenge to the state’s program plays out. The case was brought by four service-disabled veterans who say the state violated its own laws, which were supposed to give preference in issuing licenses to various “social equity” applicants, including people with prior marijuana convictions, minority- and women-owned businesses, and disabled military veterans. The state instead bumped those with prior convictions ahead of all the others.
In continuing the injunction, State Supreme Court Justice Kevin R. Bryant said the “clear language” of the law shows the various social equity applicants should be treated equally. Although the case is pending, he described the licensing program as being “in legal jeopardy.”
How this will affect the state’s desire to create a thriving retail marijuana industry is unclear. The state Office of Cannabis Management had planned to open the licensing application process to all parties on Oct. 4. Should the case drag on past that, or should the state lose, it’s unclear how existing licenses would be affected, and whether, if the current social equity application process be deemed illegal, the state would have to delay broader licensing until it fixes and properly implements the social equity aspect of the program.
It isn’t just would-be retailers who are affected by all this confusion and delay. Growers have only a minimal market to sell to, which has already left them holding on to roughly 300,000 pounds of pot this year. The state has scrambled to allow them to unload some of that surplus at fairs, festivals, concerts and other venues. Municipalities trying to plan for these new businesses have no clear idea when they’re coming. (Though credit the city of Albany for working now on revising its zoning regulations to accommodate marijuana stores. If only the state were so proactive.) Commercial property owners who signed leases with marijuana stores don’t know if their tenants will be able to make the rent.
Even private individuals who were told they could grow marijuana at home 18 months after the first adult-use retail sale can’t be sure if that’s on track. The first sale happened Dec. 22, but if it was under a program that turns out to be illegal, where does that leave the timeline?
Nearly two and a half years have passed since then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act. Clearly there are flaws in either the law or the implementation. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration and the Legislature should not wait for this case, and any others, to play out; the warning signs are already there that it may be a losing battle for the state. They need to stop imagining the best and plan for the worst — that is, fix the law and the program now, before a court orders them to.
Dunkirk Evening Observer. August 28, 2023.
Editorial: NEW YORK STATE: Get serious about open government
If state lawmakers are serious about transparency and open government, they will pass two pieces of recently introduced legislation when the next legislative session begins in January.
The first is A.7914, sponsored by Assemblywoman Jo Ann Simon, D-Brooklyn, which would allow public participation in meetings through telephone conference, video conferencing or other technology. It is similar to Assembly and Senate rules passed allowing state legislators to participate via phone or videoconferencing as long as it is approved by the leadership of their respective chamber. Many local governments have followed suit by passing legislation allowing their members to join meetings remotely. But members of the public still have to attend in person in order to participate, while few local governments live stream or record their meetings to be viewed by members of the public who can’t attend.
In our view, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If government can work from home, then the public should be able to see what their government is doing from the comfort of their couches.
Legislators should also sign off on A.7933, a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-New York City, to create a special court proceeding for FOIL and Open Meetings Law reviews within the state’s Supreme Courts located in each county throughout the state, though the local state Supreme Court justice won’t be hearing the cases.
It makes little sense that the appeal for a denied FOIL application is done by the agency that denied the appeal in the first place. Appeals should be heard by an impartial officer of the court. And it’s no secret that the state Open Meetings Law has no teeth. At the very least complaints should be heard by an impartial officer and a decision rendered so there is a record of a government’s unwillingness or inability to follow the law.
State lawmakers love to talk about how much they back transparency during the annual March observance of Sunshine Week, a national celebration of the right to know and to access public information. Taking action on these bills in January would speak louder than any flowery Sunshine Week speeches in March.
New York Post. August 24, 2023.
Editorial: It’s not just COVID that’s driven businesses away — imperiling NY
Still don’t believe the progressive agenda, and not just COVID, is clobbering New York? Then take a look at sobering new data showing scores of Wall Street firms have continued to flee since 2019, along with the nearly $1 trillion in assets they manage.
The data, compiled by Bloomberg, include 158 financial firms, managing $993 billion in assets, that headed for the exits.
Icahn Capital Management, which oversees $22.2 billion in assets, took off in 2020. ARK Investment Management relocated to the Sunshine State the next year, along with $24.7 billion in assets.
In 2022, AllianceBernstein, with $685 billion in assets, moved out.
These companies not only take assets and jobs with them but also salaries — that could be spent in New York.
Wall Street firms alone accounted for 16% of the city’s economy last year.
The result: a monumental loss of tax revenue.
In fiscal 2023, financial-sector firms forked over $5.4 billion in city taxes; in fiscal 2022, they paid $22.9 billion to the state.
Notably, the exodus of firms continued through March, long past the end of the pandemic.
Most firms headed to low-tax southern states; Florida picked up more than a third of New York’s runaways.
Why are they leaving? Clearly not just to escape COVID: Vaccines became widely available in 2021, and daily COVID deaths hit their last major peak in January 2022.
Other factors — New York’s high taxes, crime, poor schools, cost of living and, yes, weather — all share blame.
Yet New York progressives continue to raise taxes while doing little about crime, schools and the cost of living.
Meanwhile, it’s grown easier to move: We’ve all proved that many people can work and do business remotely.
That threatens to accelerate the decades-long shrinkage of New York’s share of the nation’s population, reflected in its loss of seats in the House of Representatives from 45 in 1953 to just 26 today.
The flight from New York has coincided with its long lurch leftward, an ever-worsening downward cycle: As the leftist agenda sends conservatives (and sane Democrats) fleeing, it leaves more radical leftists behind to press ever-more radical agendas — sending even more people and businesses away.
Last year, Gov. Kathy Hochul actually encouraged critics to “jump on a bus and head down to Florida, where you belong.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo before her told conservatives they “have no place in the state.”
Yet here’s the big problem for progressives: If their agenda keeps driving away businesses, people and tax revenue, who’ll pay for their pricey policies?
Last one out, turn off the lights.