For four and a half decades, the Chautauqua Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council in Jamestown has been educating the community about the dangers of marijuana.

They say the drug slows brain development and changes it's structure, as well as negatively impacts those with mental health problems, and hinders workforce development. 

"Learning development is going to be difficult, critical thinking is going to be difficult for them. They're perception of harm of that substance is going to go down, which is going to increase that usage," said Melanie Witkowski, Chautauqua Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council executive director.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently formed a task force to draft legislation aimed at legalizing the drug across New York. That prompted Witkowski to write an open letter to the community opposing the idea. 

"I'm really concerned. If we legalize that substance, that basically discredits all the things we have talked about over the years. It's not beneficial for adults either," Witowski said. 

"Once it's legal, it sends a false perception that it's OK. Strongly disagree with the move of making it a recreational drug," said Robin Mann, Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse executive director.

Erie County's Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Buffalo has also been educating the public about the danger for 70 years, through brochures and programs. 

"The marketing is really aimed at our young people and so we begin to encourage a younger generation using," Mann said.

The opposition comes after a state health department report concluded the positive effects of legalizing the drug outweigh the potential negative effects.

"In the field that we're in, we don't have that same perception. The research that we do, does not show that is the case," Mann said.

"I feel like the research behind it is very minimal," Witkowski said.

Both Witkowski and Mann say their agencies will continue to advocate the dangers of marijuana, as the state moves toward legalizing it.

"Our goal is to make sure people are safe," said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D).

State leaders say they're developing the idea in steps, and will host listening sessions around the state addressing people's issues and concerns.

"If you regulate it, you can have more control over the usage, the age that people are starting to use it," Hochul said. "So these are some of the unanswered questions."

A listening session is set to take place in Buffalo on Wednesday, October 3.