The legalization of recreation marijuana in New York remains very much up in the air as state lawmakers continue to negotiate what potential legislation should look like.
- Smart Approaches to Marijuana is a national non-partisan coalition opposed to marijuana legalization
- Advocates are traveling the state sharing their message with local elected officials
- SAM was unable to schedule meetings with Buffalo leaders Wednesday
"This was going to be in the budget. Everyone told us this was inevitable. Now people are saying that it may not even happen this year at all," Smart Approaches To Marijuana Chief of Staff Luke Niforatos said.
But Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a national non-partisan coalition opposed to legalization, is continuing to lobby outside the state capitol.
"We went to Ulster County and we went to Dutchess County and spoke with their top officials, urging them to consider the science but also urging them to consider opting out because that sends a clear message to Albany that look, we don't want this in our backyard either and there a number of other counties that have already done that," Niforatos said.
SAM said, while states across the country have already legalized marijuana, local municipalities have been less receptive to the movement.
"If you look at every single state that's legalized, the overwhelming majority of their towns and localities have banned it. A lot of people don't know this, Colorado, 72 percent of our towns and cities have banned it," Niforatos said.
The group believes there are significant health and public safety concerns associated with marijuana and said legalization has created a big money industry, not unlike pharmaceuticals or tobacco. Wednesday it brought that message to the city of Buffalo, or at least attempted to.
"Here in Buffalo, I've reached out to pretty much every single member of the local government here, asking for a meeting," the chief of staff said.
Outside of prevention professionals, SAM was unable to set up any meetings. Perhaps it's not surprising since a number of Buffalo officials, including the mayor, have signaled they're receptive to a new cannabis industry and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes is the primary sponsor of a legalization bill.
"I think she's a tremendous leader and has done an amazing job for the city of Buffalo," Niforatos said. "We've actually enjoyed our conversations with her. She's very much concerned about the same things we're concerned about."
The group said it does acknowledge the same criminal and social justice concerns Peoples-Stokes has voiced but believes they can be addressed through measures like decriminalization and expungement of criminal records.