Forum tackles legalizing marijuana

Local News

A forum sponsored by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and Flower City Solutions entitled “CannaBusiness: Capitalizing on the Cannabis Economy” will be held Thursday, May 16 at the Hyatt Regency in Rochester.

Keynote addresses and featured panels will take place from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with the central question, should recreational marijuana be legalized in New York State?

Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Bob Duffy discussed the idea behind the forum and his own view of the controversial topic Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

“Our hope is to cover every area of the spectrum of legalization,” explained Duffy. “It is our position that it’s going to happen at some point this year or next year. There are huge opportunities for business and growth and jobs. There’s also a lot of social impacts that are probably yet to be discovered so our position is to bring a lot of experts together to really discuss all sides of this issue. Two headliners are number one, the Chief Counsel for Constellation Brands which has already bought a large portion of a business called Canopy and also a high-level official from Canada, which has gone through legalization in the past. We want to explore all sides of this issue and really have a conversation in this region.”

Duffy, with his experience as the former Rochester Police Chief, Rochester Mayor, and New York Lt. Governor, has his own view of the controversial debate. “In all honesty, I think by not legalizing it you will miss the business opportunity, but here’s the thing – like prohibition – it’s still being purchased by those who want it every single day. I go back to my police career, and you can shut down market after market after market. It still goes on. A very esteemed business leader from this community many, many years ago said at a meeting I was at that the government should legalize it, control it, take away the underground economy and tax it. I think that’s the direction where it’s going and regardless of people’s moral views on this, I think it has to be something we look at from a very pragmatic standpoint at the jobs and economic impact – both from agriculture and in terms of other jobs – but also the social impacts because there are many. I go back to my first career – driving, work, all the things that you have to look at in terms of the impacts it could have on the workplace and life in general. But our position is let’s get everything on the table. Let’s really show all sides and have that conversation. We have law enforcement. We have researchers. We have health officials. We have elected officials, DAs. We have everybody coming and I think it’s really going to be a great event to explore this and I do think we will help shape the conversation as they deliberate in Albany.”

Duffy added, “For those who say you should not do it, I can speak from experience – you’re not going to stop it. This way if it does happen the state can control it. They can control the quality and the access to it as best they can. They’ll take away the underground markets. If I could just add one thing from a former police chief, the young men, and women who sell marijuana on the streets of this city and cities across the state, and really across the country, who are perhaps high school dropouts, who have no other job opportunities, what will happen to them when this happens? Nobody’s talking about that, but I think we have to have that conversation.”

You can register to hear from experts on the subject of legalizing recreational marijuana at the “CannaBusiness: Capitalizing on the Cannabis Economy” forum by visiting greaterrochesterchamber.com, and searching “Programs & Events” for the registration tab.

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