The legalization of adult-use cannabis will come with new costs and responsibilities for county governments. Counties are responsible for protecting public health and broad public safety. We administer mental health and substance use services, public health education, and massive social services to keep our residents healthy and safe. Cannabis legalization will dramatically increase the need and demand for these county services.

The new legalization proposal agreed to by the Governor and Legislature this week provides counties with only 1% – or 1/13th – of the sales tax collected for retail sales to protect public health and safety, overturning the Governor’s original language providing 4% sales tax to counties and local governments. This compromise is significantly less than the 3% most counties currently collect for alcohol sales to provide life-saving public health education and roadside safety, and will not cover the new costs that will result from cannabis legalization.

Local tax distribution formulas have always been negotiated at the county level in recognition of the unique partnerships and range of services counties and their municipalities have to deliver while providing the very State-mandated services about to grow significantly.

We cannot support any proposal that doesn’t recognize this and we urge the Governor and Legislature to amend the adult-use cannabis legalization to apply traditional sales and compensating use taxes to retail purchases.

Now, more than ever, there needs to be sales tax permanency so that county taxes and revenue are not subject to politics and delay at the state level.

The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all the counties of New York State, including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate, serve and advocate for member counties and the elected and appointed county officials who serve the public. For more information, visit www.nysac.org