Smoke screen

It’s taken three years, a pandemic, potential fiscal disaster and Democratic veto proof control of the state senate, but it looks like legalization of “recreational” marijuana could become law in New York State this year.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo advanced the proposal in his 2018 state of the state address only to see the measure languish in the legislature over revenue issues. That said, it would seem the majority of (current) legislators are more concerned with how many billions legalization will direct to state coffers and once there, how it will be spent, as opposed to health and safety concerns.

The governor’s bill would direct cannabis revenues only to “general purpose” spending, which is to say almost entirely under the executive’s control. At last estimate, this potential cash cow was expected to generate some $4 billion a year in fresh cash. If history repeats, the former Empire State will spend upwards of $3.9 billion to administer the program.

Senior Democrats, like Kevin Cahill of Kingston, want some (yet undefined) portion of marijuana money directed to drug abuse prevention and treatment with particular focus on inner cities and pockets of drug abuse. Some may find Orwellian the notion of legalizing an addictive drug in order to address drug addiction, but hey, the state really needs the money.

Local reaction among newbie state senators, Republican Mike Martucci of Orange County and Democrat Michelle Hinchey of Saugerties, was interesting. Martucci, belying his lack of political experience, waltzed around the subject like a finalist on Dancing with the Stars. At only 35 this guy could have a future.

Hinchey, by contrast, gushed with enthusiasm for legalization, a subject that was not barely raised in her mom and apple pie campaign last year. Maybe she had Cheech and Chong for advisors.

We should not pass judgment on an elected official after less than two weeks in office, but it would appear that Hinchey, the daughter of a liberal congressman, is firmly in the left lane of her party. 

Farmer’s daughters – Post-election, we had Martucci on our Mario and Me call-in show on WGHQ (Democratic candidates were also invited but never got back to us) where we raised the subject of his narrow victory over incumbent Jen Metzger of Rosendale.

“Well, when you win by 500 votes, (closer to 1,500 on final count), he said, “it could have come from anywhere.” Martucci was convinced it was bail reform, which Metzger supported and which he hit hard during the campaign.

Maybe. Victory has many fathers, so let’s not rule out Metzger’s controversial farm bill. As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Metzger’s bill, passed by the legislature and signed into law, recognized some long-standing farm labor issues, but to the dismay of and intense opposition from farmers, also granted farm workers similar employment rights as non-farm workers, like overtime. 

Metzger was by any fair measure an activist legislator, but as Sir Isaac advised so many years ago, for every action there is an equal opposite reaction.

Metzger’s former (Orange-Ulster) 42nd district had (has) over 2,000 working farms as opposed to half as many in Hinchey’s new 46th district. Ironically, Hinchey will succeed Metzger as chair of the Senate Agriculture. For her sake, let’s hope she’s better at grass roots politics.

‘Tis better to give – One of the things that makes me proud to be an American is that we are a very generous people. Take religious giving.

One of the churches (which shall remain unnamed) where I wash away my sins, averages about $3,500 in regular Sunday collections. (This from the church bulletin which is quite transparent about parish finances.)

Christmas donations topped $27,000 last year, according to the bulletin. Praise the Lord and pass the collection basket.

Give us a break – For those who would like me to weigh in on the current craziness in Washington, may I say, can’t we all take a break? For a couple for weeks? Send all the talking heads home with pay, let the new president settle in, turn off the web, let the editorialists turn their pens into plowshares.

We’ll keep an eye on local happenings.