New York state is a big and complex entity. It provides services that meet the needs of millions of people, and at the same time, it creates law after law that is supposed to meet those needs. Sometimes the state trips over its own regulatory feet and falls flat on its face.
When it comes to the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act, you can toss a coin as to whether it is a hiccup or a major bureaucratic headache. The MRTA law turned 2 years old last week. When you create a massive statewide undertaking, there are always fits and starts. But sooner or later, the whole process gets on track and almost everyone is happy.
There is no doubt that the legislators who sponsored the original MRTA law had the best of intentions, and were hopeful that the law would be in place and slowly but surely be producing revenue for the state and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Regrettably, the state has gotten zero dollars from the program, and you can count the number of new jobs with your fingers.
I’m not pointing one of mine in blame at any officials in particular, because they have a tough and thankless job. But the visions of success have been premature. At present, there are hundreds of licensed growers around the state who will very soon have a product that is available, but no one to sell it to. There are only a handful of legal dispensaries, and they can’t handle the amount of cannabis that is being grown. So what should a pot grower do with tons of mature plants? Farmers must have a place to sell their products, but New York’s cannabis growers don’t.
While the state has been in the process of getting the system functioning, one group has done very well. If you take a drive around New York City or many other parts of the state, you’ll see an enormous number of mini-stores that call themselves “smoke shops.” You can be sure that they aren’t surviving on the proceeds from the sales of $12 packs of Marlboros. They do sell nicotine products, but their money comes from the sale of marijuana.
Jerry Kremer was an Assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? firstname.lastname@example.org.