ALBANY – Lawmakers are working on a second push to legalize recreational marijuana.
The new bills come after an effort to include cannabis legalization in the state budget failed earlier this year.
The bill’s sponsor in the New York State Assembly, Democratic Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, called for a comprehensive plan to legalize cannabis, regulate hemp, and improve New York’s medical marijuana program.
Not every lawmaker, however, believes recreational marijuana will be a good thing for New York State. Cattaraugus County Assemblyman Joseph Giglio told WNYNewsNow that, after Colorado legalized the drug, a number of issues arose.
“There is no way for law enforcement to test drivers for that kind of impairment yet,” said Giglio. “In Colorado crashes are up, physical injuries are up.”
Giglio also said several rehab facilities in New York have petitioned to lawmakers to vote no to legalize marijuana.
“The rehab people are saying they have a tough enough problem with opioids, heroin and cocaine and all we are going to do is add to the problem,” explained Giglio. “If this bill ever comes to the floor the bill has to be really tight and really good; and then protect those under 21 and those even over 21 that are going to use it to make sure it doesn’t cause more problems than they already have.”
Peoples-Stokes believes that the core principles of the previous plan including “significant dedicated investment in communities most harmed by marijuana prohibition, equity in the industry, permitting individuals to grow cannabis for personal use, and addressing past criminal convictions,” had been preserved in the new bill.
The majority leader also said that the new plan would include public health benefits and provisions to address the consequences of the War on Drugs.
“A certain percentage of it will go towards communities that have been negatively impacted by mass incarceration,” Peoples-Stokes said.
“And a certain percentage of it would go for research, drug prevention and treatment,” she added.
The new plan also includes expansion to the state’s medical marijuana program by leaving it up to doctors and patients to decide when the therapeutic use of cannabis may be beneficial instead of restricting access to those with a specified qualifying medical condition.