Many Questions Remain As Public Attitudes On Marijuana Change
As Governor Andrew Cuomo pushes to make New York the 11th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, activists, advocates, critics and local governments are jockeying for position on the plan.
As state lawmakers consider legalizing recreational marijuana, Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police Associations, county health officials, AAA, and the PTA all have expressed concerns that New York is moving too fast.
On the other side, pro-cannabis organizations and local governments want a piece of the pie. Mary Pryor is an advocate for cannabis equity with the organization Cannaclusive, who believes everyone should be given a chance to have ownership and pathways to wealth in the industry. "When you get into the weeds of it, you have individuals that think that they're gonna be able to immediately jump into a market that has billions of dollars that'll be flooded into it within the state and even moreso nationwide when this approaches federal regulation and approval, and they're going to be the most left behind in the system."
Pryor believes an adult-use recreational marijuana market will offer limited benefits to small business ventures, minority entrepreneurs and disenfranchised communities.
Speaking at the New York Conference of Mayors Winter Legislative Meeting, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan stressed that local governments should be given a share of marijuana excise tax revenues. "We are the ones that are going to have to train our police officers. We are the ones that are going to have to deal with zoning issues. We are the ones that are going to have to deal with those unintended consequences."
New York-based pro-cannabis organizations have joined forces to demand what they call an "equitable cannabis industry." Their #EquityDayOne campaign encourages citizens to write to their legislators before March 15th and urges them to pass adult-use cannabis legislation with equity, environment, and humanity in mind. Again, Pryor: "Delayed equity only allows for big corporate cannabis to be able to proceed and go forth with whatever plans they have geared toward market domination, and, as we've seen in Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington and especially now in Michigan, corporate cannabis being able to have a head start, being able to operate or run or rule the way that legislation falls, pretty much means that you're running into a situation where you will not have mom and pop operations being able to even have a chance in this industry, and they're going to run into issues where they're not going to be able to have accessible ways to even market or fund their businesses."
Demands include protections for immigrants and DACA recipients to join the cannabis industry without fear of deportation.
Governor Andrew Cuomo would like to pass marijuana legalization by the budget deadline of April 1st, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has expressed doubt about that. Cuomo once called marijuana a gateway drug.
Alex Berenson wrote the book "Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence." He is on the side that believes Cuomo was correct when he called it a gateway drug. "There is evidence that if you use cannabis, you're more likely to use other drugs later. Now, some people would say, 'well, that's because if you buy drugs illegally, the dealer isn't likely to have heroin or cocaine,' and there may be some truth in that, but it's also possible that using an addictive drug and a drug that gets you high, primes you to use other addictive drugs and drugs that get you high. The truth is probably some combination."
Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states. Recreational use has been legalized in 10 states, including Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia. Both are illegal under federal law.