Law enforcement leaders gathered Thursday in Albany, to express opposition with the possible legalization of recreational marijuana. The New York State Sheriffs’ Association held a press conference at their offices. The parties involved had varying reasons for opposing legalization but agreed it was a bad idea for New York.
This comes as Governor Cuomo is backing a plan to legalize recreational marijuana as part of the state budget. Advocates say this is too important an issue to be rushed.
“We’re talking about an addiction for profit industry that is now rising again,” said Luke Niforatos of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
Concerns include impaired driving and road safety, the impact on children by normalizing use and overall public health.
This week DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker said he worked with public safety and mental health leaders to evaluate the risks of legalization. He believes the pros outweigh cons. Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo is pushing a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use as part of the state budget. Many advocates say, “Slow down.”
“This is not a budget issue. This has to be pulled out of the budget,” said Kyle Belokopitsky, Executive Director of the NYS PTA.
Late last year, Albany County District Attorney David Soares announced that his office would no longer prosecute low-level marijuana offenses. He argued it was a waste of time and resources.
Republican Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett, whose county borders Massachusetts where recreational marijuana is legal, disagrees.
“It is always worth it. Because again, whether it is somebody skiing or somebody driving, deaths are going to go up. They have gone up,” Bartlett said.
Not in attendance was Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, a member of the Sheriffs’ Association. He’s not opposed to decriminalization and is open to legalization, but urges caution especially when it comes to road safety.
“I don’t see why it has to be part of the budget. I mean this can be something that is done later on. Again, we’ve rushed enough things through in this state, lets slow down, put the brakes on it and do it right,” Apple said.
Also discussed was the need for more Drug Recognition Experts. If legalization were to pass, law enforcement leaders have expressed concern that will lead to impaired driving.
They’re calling for the hiring of more Drug Recognition Experts to help determine when someone is high behind the wheel.
In a statement reiterating his position on not prosecuting low-level marijuana offenses, Albany County District Attorney David Soares also called for investment in more DRE’s.