Why should Long Beach opt-in to cannabis?
The City of Long Beach is broke. While many may be quick to blame aftereffects of the pandemic, our community has appeared on the State Comptroller’s annual “Municipalities in Stress” report since 2016. This designation means our local government budgets and, more importantly, our school budgets, might be slashed. This isn’t news to residents, as crumbling streets, periods of brown tap water, and a close to “junk” bond rating from Moody’s, all amidst rising taxes, dominate local conversation. And don’t even get us started on the price increase for beach passes!
As Bernadette Martin, owner of beloved staple Bob’s Natural Foods, was quoted in Bloomberg, “If Long Beach was a business, it wouldn’t be in business.”
But there is a potentially revolutionary solution in the air: legal, adult-use cannabis.
Cannabis could be the saving grace for Long Beach, bringing in much needed tax revenue for the city to help fund critical priorities like education and infrastructure improvements. Some bike lanes would be nice in a community full of bicyclists. The same Comptroller who has deemed Long Beach fiscally stressed estimates that the early years of adult-use cannabis legalization in New York will generate $245 million in annual revenue, growing every year. But the direct tax revenue is just the beginning.
Legal cannabis will not only increase the city’s tax revenue but will bring in an influx of jobs across the supply chain. According to a 2022 employment report put out by Leafly, there are over 400,000 full-time jobs supported by legal cannabis with an average of 280 new jobs being created each day. Cannabis will produce increased employment opportunities at all levels not just “plant touching” jobs such as cultivation, processing, and retail. Other jobs generated by a local and legal cannabis industry will include human resources, legal advisory, regulatory compliance, security, maintenance, construction, media, technology platforms, packaging, trucking, and delivery.
In addition to creating new jobs, legal cannabis in our “City by the Sea” will bring resources to other local businesses that have no association with the plant. Retail fronts have found it difficult to compete with instant delivery services and many of the mom-and-pop shops that Long Beach locals cherish have been forced to shut down or are in danger of so. The last thing this city needs is another real estate office opening in what was once a beloved local institution. Legal cannabis is a boon to in-person retail, promoting foot (and bike) traffic across the town. Cannabis retail is mainly an in-person activity that drives consumers to local cafes, boutiques, and other stores, when they’re already in the neighborhood to purchase regulated, tested cannabis. Seasonal visitors will also have a reason to make retail stops on their way to enjoy our spectacular beach.
Let’s go back to the direct impact. Other states that recently launched adult-use cannabis sales saw tremendous numbers. New Jersey, which launched cannabis adult-use sales in April 2022, recorded $4.6 million in tax revenue in the first 10 weeks of legal sales alone! Data shows that legal cannabis sales have been a success in new areas and are expected to continue to advance. The tax revenue collected by Long Beach’s legal dispensary sales could go back into the town’s general fund, education programs, public health, and other safety programs. With all the data supporting the financial windfall of opting in and the mainstream embrace of cannabis, at this point my question is: why is anyone opposed to this? The rhetoric of cannabis as a so-called gateway drug has been disproven again and again, as has the claims of traffic dangers and crime increases.
Cannabis can change Long Beach for the better, but only if we act: we must opt-in and approve retail dispensaries in our community.
As a father raising my children in Long Beach I care deeply about my community and want to see Long Beach thrive for many years to come. Being a dad who supports cannabis, I want my children to grow up in a place that accepts and supports the legal and responsible consumption of cannabis and provides the correct educational resources to counter underage consumption and illicit sales. Moreover, as a cannabis advocate, I want to give the adults of Long Beach the opportunity to safe, legal access to real dispensaries. Real dispensaries that support the community by preventing less illegal market activity.
These lofty goals can all be reached, but we must urge our elected officials to opt-in.
David Kushner, Social Media Manager at Marino and Long Beach resident.