Mental health advocates are holding up a yellow light as lawmakers debate the legalization of adult use marijuana. Glenn Liebman of the Mental Health Association of New York is calling for a deeper study on how cannabis can affect the brain.
"We know that marijuana is often a depressive for some people. We're concerned about that. I know they say marijuana is not an addictive medication, but it can be for some people. So we have to be aware of that," Liebman said.
The push to legalize marijuana for adult use was included in Governor Andrew Cuomo's $175 billion budget. Cuomo wants to use some of the revenue generated in taxes by marijuana sales to study the health effects. But Liebman says there should be a review now on how marijuana can especially impact those under the age of 26.
"That is going to have an impact on your brain and we have to study that and we have to look at that. It's a big concern to us," Liebman said.
Liebman wants warning labels included on recreational marijuana sold in New York. And he wants to use a mental health program already in schools to educate kids.
"Let's utilize that mechanism to include education about marijuana in there as well, because there are consequences," Liebman said.
Adult use marijuana legalization is all the more likely in New York now that Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature. But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says the negotiations could stretch past the budget, due to pass at the end of March.
"I don't know if six weeks is enough time to get it done. if it can happen, great. But we'll deal with it when we can," Heastie said.
Related to marijuana legalization are criminal justice reforms that could expunge the records of low-level drug offenders. And lawmakers want to ensure retail marijuana licenses are directed to those impacted by current drug laws.
"More than getting things done quickly, it's better to get things done correctly," Heastie said.
The legislative session runs through the end of June.