MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County officials from opposing political parties are in agreement with at least one trending topic.
Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello (R) and Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson (D) both said, during separate interviews with WNYNewsNow Thursday, that they are both against the legalization of recreational marijuana usage. Their responses come after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s continued public push for the legalization.
Borrello, himself, said he’s against the usage of recreational marijuana after seeing several issues arise in states that have already legalized the usage.
“Right now, (the New York State Legislature) seems to be going at a hundred miles an hour to approve it, and whenever you do something like that, you’re not taking cautious steps and not doing due diligence,” Borrello said. “Ultimately, you’re going to make mistakes, and the mistakes are going to be very costly, not just in money, but potentially in the lives of people here in Chautauqua County.”
“I’m opposed to the legalization of marijuana, but I do believe it’s going to happen in New York State, therefore, we need to be prepared for it. I’m very concerned about the financial costs and social costs involved, and I think that the State needs to look very carefully about how they’re going to regulate it.”
When asked if there were any positives for Chautauqua County should recreational marijuana be legalized, Borrello acknowledged that some positives exist. Borrello, however, said the legalization would provide a “net negative.”
“I think everything has positives and negatives. However, you have to look and see whether it’d be a net negative or net positive,” Borrello said. “I believe, for Chautauqua County, it’d be a net negative.”
Borrello said that, at this point, there are only three people who are certified to do roadside sobriety checks for people under the influence of drugs.
“With the legalization of marijuana, every police officer is going to need to have that certification in order to be able to conduct a proper sobriety test to ensure that that person who may not be drunk, but under the influence of drugs, is arrested,” Borrello said. “That’s going to be a huge expense, and it’s not something that’ll happen overnight, even if we have the money.”
“New York State is going to be the one who benefits from all of this finanically, so they’re going to need to step forward and commit that money.”
Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson, like Borrello, said he’s not in support of passing legislation legalizing the usage of recreational marijuana. Swanson said he sees problems arising if a law is passed.
“Truthfully, I’m not in support of the recreational use of marijuana,” Swanson said. “It brings with it a number of problems. I think what they’re seeing in other states most is an increase in traffic incidents that are related to people driving under the ability impaired.”
“That’s not to say that I don’t understand the people who support legalization. But from a law enforcement perspective, the negatives outweigh.”
Swanson said, regardless of his position on various issues, he’ll continue to enforce the laws that remain in place.
“For me, as the District Attorney, we’re going to enforce the laws as written. Right now, we have marijuana laws on the books. We’re going to enforce them. If it changes, it changes. It will affect law enforcement adversely, I think.”
Swanson said that marijuana cases aren’t harshly prosecuted, which limits the caseload for his office. However, Swanson said he could see his office’s workload increase with driving while ability impaired cases if the legalization of recreational marijuana takes place.
“(The legalization) will increase the burdens placed on us to prosecute those cases in exchange for not prosecuting the marijuana,” Swanson said.
Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings, when reached by email, said the legalization of marijuana could affect several areas of his department, but he added that a lot is unknown for sure right now until a law is actually passed.
WNYNewsNow has also reached out to Chautauqua County Sheriff Jim Quattrone and Chautauqua County Public Defender Ned Barone for comment. As of publish time, the calls haven’t been returned.