Cuomo Proposes Recreational Marijuana Study

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for the Department of Health to take a closer look at the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana.

In his State of the State address, the governor asked the department to conduct a study on the health, economic and criminal justice impact that New York state could face if marijuana was legalized.

He also asked them to look into the impacts on New York state due to other states legalizing marijuana nearby and federal actions. Recently, a policy at the federal level was lifted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that previously deterred the federal government from coming down on states where marijuana is legal.

County Executive George Borrello said he would like to know what the parameters for the study will be and if it will be a comprehensive study. Borrello said he wondered what the impact would be when it comes to workforce readiness.

During his time visiting businesses, Borrello said one of the biggest complaints is that businesses cannot find workers who can pass a drug test and show up for work on time.

Borrello said most businesses do not do “surprise drug tests,” but announce them before hand and tell the candidates what they will be testing for.

“And they still fail the drug tests,” he said. “That tells me we have a problem.”

Borrello said with those factors and others beside, he is “absolutely against” legalizing recreational marijuana.

“Making something legal doesn’t make it right,” he said.

Borrello said some would argue that if alcohol is legal, marijuana should also be legal, but he said there is “no comparison” between the two.

“When you smoke marijuana, it is to get stoned,” he said. “You can consume alcohol in moderation. There is a major difference.”

Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, said he also has concerns about recreational marijuana legalization. Goodell said he also had concerns about medical marijuana legalization as well. He said neither he nor his legislative colleagues have medical knowledge needed to make such a drug widely available.

“When it comes to making a drug available, we should be extremely cautious,” Goodell said. “Everyone recognizes that it has an impact on a person’s ability to drive a car, operate machinery or anything else.”

Goodell said the whole purpose of making marijuana legal would be to increase its use, but the consequences of higher use would most likely be more driving under the influence related-accidents in which people are maimed or killed.

“Sometimes, politicians don’t take the time to study the reasons why marijuana was made illegal in the first place,” he said.

Goodell said the other issue is the fact that marijuana is still illegal at a federal level. The constitution recognizes that federal government has authority over state governments.

“It’s an inappropriate constitutional procedure to say we’re going to ignore federal law,” he said. “Those who want to have marijuana legally should petition the federal government so it’s no longer illegal there.”

Goodell said he understands his position may not be “politically correct.” The current stance for many politicians, he said, is “smoke away.”

“I’m not really ‘high’ on increasing the availability of marijuana,” Goodell said wryly.

Anthony Baney, Western New York National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws volunteer, said the study is a positive step in the right direction, but is not enough. Baney said while he doesn’t speak for the whole group, in his opinion more can be done in legalizing recreational marijuana.

“It’s not as much action that we would want from the governor,” Baney said. “My personal position is that I would like to see the criminal justice side reformed.”

However, Baney said regulating marijuana in a similar fashion as alcohol is understandable.

Baney said the governor cannot force the legislature to pass any bill, but he could support a bill that is already on the table: the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.

Baney rebutted the impaired driving argument, saying the Department of Motor Vehicles reports that more accidents are caused by defunct pavement than by drivers impaired by marijuana.

“If the governor were to collect the taxes on legalized marijuana, he could actually repair the roads that are causing the accident,” he said.

However, Baney said he does not support impaired driving and would support regulating marijuana the same way as alcohol is regulated.