New York State To Explore Legalizing Marijuana

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In his 2018 Executive Budget Address, Governor Cuomo announced New York State will launch a study examining the plausibility of legalizing marijuana.

According to the Governor, the Department of Health would conduct a study on regulated marijuana to determine:

•Health impact

•Economic impact

•Criminal justice impact

•Consequence to New York State resulting from legalization in surrounding states and federal action

Massachusetts has already legalized pot. New Jersey may legalize it. But there’s contention on the state and federal level.

“On the other hand, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he’s going to end marijuana in every state,” said Cuomo. “I think we should fund the DOH to do a study. Let them work with the state police and other agencies. If it was legalized in New Jersey and legal in Massachusetts and the federal government allowed it to go ahead, what would that do to New York, which is right in the middle?”

So far, reaction from WNY is mixed.

“It’s a money grab to me,” said Jodie Altman, the campus director of Kids Escaping Drugs. “I can tell you that every kid on our campus that has smoked marijuana prior to coming in here will identify that as one of the gateway drugs that lead them on to whatever else they use.”

Senator Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, doesn’t necessarily support legalizing marijuana but he sides with Governor Cuomo that gathering more information is an important step.

“While I have never supported recreational use of marijuana, I think the governor’s proposal to study how it may impact our state both socially and economically is important,” he said in a statement. “I have no issue with doing our own independent study, which we can then use as basis for any future policy. The more facts that we have available to us for proposing legislation, the more successful that legislation will be.”

Senator Tim Kennedy, D-South Buffalo, also supports Governor Cuomo’s proposal, but he wants to see more done toward legalizing the drug.

“It’s a step in the right direction. But it’s only a step,” he said when reached by phone Tuesday. “I think [legalizing marijuana] is the right thing to do and this is the right time to do it.”

According to Kennedy, recreational marijuana is an important social justice and economic issue. It also “provides a path as an alternative to opioids and other substances”.

Those are views shared by Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, who has spent several years pushing a bill in Albany to legalize marijuana. But, in her opinion, Governor Cuomo’s proposal to simply look into the idea is not enough.

“I appreciate the fact he realizes we need to do something when it comes to legalizing marijuana,” she said Tuesday over the phone. “I don’t think it’s necessary to spend money on a task force or a study when there’s already so much information available.”