The question of whether marijuana should be legalized continues to burn across the state.

Ending in Watertown, nine listening sessions across upstate New York are complete, with each gathering public comments under consideration when state lawmakers drafts legislation for a regulated marijuana program. A draft will be presented during the next legislative session. 

“I’ve never tried marijuana but I feel like it would have a lot of medicinal impacts,” says Sydney Robinson, a freshman at Nazareth College, at the Rochester session. “In America, we have freedom and I think they should have the freedom to choose what is best for them. It’s not just going to be a free-for-all, there’s going to be guidelines in any legal system and any law.”

Nelson Acquilano of Penfield, a licensed social worker who retired from a 40-year career in the addiction field, said there are many faults in a report issued earlier this year by the state Department Health.

“They said that somewhere between nine and 30 percent of people can become addicted to marijuana but then they just crossed over it and said well we’ll provide more psychotherapy for these people if they need it,” he said. “They failed to recognize that THC in the old day was one to three percent and now it’s as high as 90 percent.”

Back in January, Cuomo authorized a study, led by the New York State Health Department, to highlight the pros and cons of marijuana legalization in the Empire State. The research looked at several factors including health, economy, public safety and the impact on the criminal justice system if recreational marijuana were to be legalized.

In their final report to the governor, the state health department found that the good outweighed the bad concerning legalizing the drug. They also recommended a regulated marijuana program to abate problems. The 74-page analysis from the department estimates that the state could raise nearly $700 million in tax revenue off the drug alone.