CHEMUNG — Chemung County Legislator Brian Hyland stopped by the Chemung Town Board meeting on Wednesday night and spoke with the board and residents about the possible legalization of marijuana — and the impacts it could have on the county.
Hyland said he expects the state to legalize recreational marijuana within the next year and Chemung County will soon have a major decision to make on the issue.
“I’d like some input on this. As you know, the state is considering legalizing marijuana. That’s at the state level and there’s nothing the county can do about that. But the county does have the option to opt out of the agricultural aspect, growing marijuana, distribution and sale of it,” Hyland told the residents and board members on Wednesday.
“That’s something the county can control. Should we (opt out), then we don’t get any sales tax revenue that would be derived from the sale of marijuana. It’s going to come before the legislature and we’re going to have to make that decision at some point.”
One resident wanted to know the details on how much the county would actually receive from the sales tax.
“If the state decides to implement that, and yeah sales revenue is going to be generated from it, but what percentage of it is going to go to the county because to me there are going to be administrative costs associated with that,” the resident stated. “I don’t know if there’s going to be extra policing or what. The burden of policing and making sure everything is on the up and up, if it all falls back on the county, but you don’t reap any of the benefits from it ... it would be nice to know what’s in it for us.”
Unfortunately, according to Hyland, he and the rest of the county legislators are still in the dark on most of the specifics.
“I haven’t gotten the definitive answer on what the amount flowing back to the counties will be. I’ve heard everything from 50 percent to two percent,” Hyland told the resident.
If Chemung County decides to opt out of the production, distribution and sale of marijuana, that doesn’t mean the county will have no adverse effects from the state legalizing the drug.
“If Chemung County opts to opt out of those three elements, Broome County might not, Tompkins County might not, so they’ll profit from it and get the sales tax from it and we’ll have to deal with the issues,” Hyland said during the meeting.
Hyland said he would love to have more information before he and the legislature make up their mind on opting in or out of legalized marijuana.
“This is all, unfortunately, it’s loosely defined and we’re in a position where we have to make a decision before we know what we’re really dealing with,” Hyland said.
The longtime legislator has been spending his time going around his district to listen to the concerns of the residents on the issue.
“I’m listening to all my constituents. I want to see what their feelings are. Right now, the people I have spoke with are overwhelmingly opposed, but again I have only spoken at venues (like) town meetings, so I have to get out to more social events and talk to individuals, talk to the younger people and get their take on it,” Hyland said.