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Albany County DA David Soares Announces New Approach To Marijuana

Albany County District Attorney David Soares says a series of public meetings will be held this summer to discuss marijuana laws with communities. WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas was at Friday’s announcement.

A state task force created by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is poised to release a report on possible legalization any day. Soares, also a Democrat, sees that day coming and is executing a plan of action.   "It is my intention to, in the near future, announce a policy shift in the enforcement procedures here in Albany County. And prior to my making those announcements, I will be seeking the opinions of a variety of stakeholders as well as our constituents here in Albany County."

The DA says a series of community meetings in June will give residents an opportunity to ask questions and discuss public safety concerns about marijuana legalization and the future of marijuana laws and prosecution.   "The question that we have to ask ourselves, those of us who are in the waiting position now, is what are we going to do in the meantime as our leaders develop state laws and regulations. And what we have done in the past prior to movement on the Rockefeller Drug Laws is we've exercised prosecutorial discretion and developed policies where we've enabled more individuals to get treatment as opposed to incarceration. And so, the intention of this office is to, in the month of July, in the very early stages of July, be making a formal announcement, prior to doing so, we want to get input from citizens of Albany County as well as other stakeholders."

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie believes current laws have led to a disproportionate share of African American and Latino New Yorkers being arrested for marijuana possession. And he says those criminal records should be expunged.  "If we're gonna get to the point where it's gonna be legal and recreational, then why should people now still be having trouble getting jobs and having a record for something that now could be legal?"

Soares points out 29 other states have engaged in one form or another of decriminalization and market regulation of marijuana.   "There are states that have done great things, there are states that stumbled along the way, but we're in the position now where we have a lot of data to learn from."

Current public meetings are being held on the following Wednesdays throughout the month of June:

Wednesday, June 6th, at 6 PM, at Albany Public Library Arbor Hill/West Hill Branch,
 located at 148 Henry Johnson Blvd, Albany, NY 12210

Monday, June 11th, at 6 PM, at Berne Public Library, located at 

1763 Helderberg Trail, Berne, NY 12023

Wednesday, June 13th, at 6 PM, at Guilderland Public Library, located at 

2228 Western Avenue, Guilderland, NY 12084

Monday, June 18th, at 6 PM, at Cohoes Public Library, located at 

169 Mohawk St # 2, Cohoes, NY 12047

Wednesday, June 20th, at 6 PM, at Bethlehem Public Library, located at 

451 Delaware Avenue, Delmar, NY 12054

In addition to the public meetings, Albany County residents are also invited to take an online survey to share opinions on the topic. The DA says the survey takes less than a minute to fill out and can be found on the website www.albanycountyda.comand then click on the green logo seal:

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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