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Marijuana Legalization In New York State Is Inevitable

The question “Should NY legalize marijuana sales to persons 21 years of age or older?” has already been decided. The public is in favor — 63 percent of us say yes. Those who agree represent all political parties, genders, races and ethnicities. New York state has invested time and resources to study the health, social and economic impacts of legalization in states where marijuana is legal. Economists have run the numbers estimating sales and tax revenue and jobs creation potential for New York state. Conclusions overwhelmingly support legalization in New York state.

The only questions that remain, before legalization is the law, are questions about how we will structure and regulate the industry and how we will educate the public about risks just like we educate about over consumption of alcohol, DWI, and generally responsible adult behavior including in the workplace.

In states that have legal, regulated marijuana sales there is a reduction in teen use of marijuana. This is attributed to the absence of an illicit market and difficulty purchasing until the age of 21. There is little to no increase in the number of adults using marijuana. Interestingly, compared to other states, fewer adults currently use marijuana in New York than use it elsewhere. There is no change in the number of motor vehicle crashes but law enforcement is equipped to enforce marijuana-related DWIs, and they do.

There is a drop in opioid deaths and opioid prescribing where marijuana is legal. Marijuana has pain relieving benefits and is used as a substitute without addictive properties. Health risks associated with marijuana are fewer than those associated with alcohol, tobacco, heroin and cocaine. The principle risk is smoking but in a legal market other forms are available. Most women stop or reduce their use of marijuana during pregnancy and once again greater education should work to lower the number of low weight babies. But babies do not appear to suffer in other ways from exposure in the womb. The principle known health risk of marijuana use is to people who are susceptible to psychosis or who are bipolar. Further research on this topic is underway. Certainly a regulated marijuana marketplace reduces health risks for users overall by ensuring the lack of harmful additives in products.

It is well known that the social cost of an illegal marketplace has doubled our prison population at the expense of poor and minority communities. It has ruined lives of people who have committed no violent offense. Incarceration for possession or small sales stigmatizes people for life, wrecking their chances for employment and tearing apart families. It overburdens law enforcement and has reduced the public treasury by a significant amount. Legalization would eliminate this form of racism and be a cost savings for everyone.

New York’s population is large, 15 million people. Sales of marijuana are projected to be over $3 billion. Tax revenue estimates vary but they are in the hundreds of millions that would be divided among state and county coffers. New York is almost surrounded by Canadian provinces and states where marijuana is legal or will be soon. If New York doesn’t legalize marijuana New York dollars will flow to other states. Right now New York counties that border Pennsylvania, which is not considering legalization, are likely to see an increase in tourism dollars once marijuana is legal here. That’s us, Chautauqua County. I am among those who favor legalization.

Judith Einach is a Westfield resident and candidate for the 150th state Assembly district.

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