HUDSON — The Columbia County Board of Supervisors voted to accept funding from the Drug Enforcement Administration to locate illicit marijuana plants grown in the county at its final meeting before the county state of emergency went into effect.
The county will receive $5,000 to perform “marijuana eradication activities,” according to the letter of agreement entered into by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The funds may be used to cover the cost of fly-overs to spot illegal marijuana production, including the rental of aircraft and fuel for aircraft.
“It has been determined that evidence of trafficking of marijuana has a substantial and detrimental effect on the health and general welfare of the people of the State of New York and Columbia County,” according to the board’s resolution.
Four members of the Board of Supervisors voted against the agreement, including Canaan Town Supervisor Brenda Adams, Hudson 1st Ward Supervisor Sarah Sterling, Hudson 4th Ward Supervisor Linda Mussmann and Hudson 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael Chameides.
“Attempting to eradicate marijuana is the wrong use of resources. We should be focusing on evidenced-based solutions, successful pathways to recovery and harm reduction,” Chameides said during the vote.
Punitive measures have proven unsuccessful, he said.
“The idea that we are going to eradicate marijuana is not realistic,” Chameides said, adding that marijuana is legal next door in Massachusetts.
Adams said she agreed with Chameides’ reasoning and said she thinks the money is better spent elsewhere.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell of Stockport supported the use of funds for locating marijuana.
“I know people asked, ‘Why now?’ especially if it is legalized. But if you are growing it in your backyard, it is illegal,” he said.
The $5,000 grant was given to Columbia County as part of the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, a federal effort to support local law enforcement agencies as they combat illegal marijuana.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has in recent years spent more than $17 million annually on cannabis eradication grants, with most funds being used on aviation support and officer overtime, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The funding must be used by Sept. 30, 2020.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office could not be reached for comment.