Local organizations at Molloy University in Rockville Centre on Tuesday announced the formation of a grassroots intercounty campaign focusing on cannabis safety, awareness and health called "Let's Be Blunt." Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Citing safety concerns in an ever-changing landscape since marijuana was legalized for recreational purposes in New York in 2021, local organizations announced the kickoff Tuesday of a grassroots intercounty campaign for Long Island residents titled "Let's Be Blunt."

The groups — Partnering in Action and Change for Tomorrow in Nassau (PACT) and Town of Babylon Cares in Suffolk — forming the coalition hope to attract other local organizations  to help spread awareness about all aspects of recreational marijuana, which is now legal for anyone 21 or over. 

During a press conference at Molloy University's Suffolk campus, group leaders gathered with state, county and town officials to address two key concerns: Kids and teens accessing unsecured marijuana in the home, including so-called "edibles," and cannabis-impaired driving.

“Unintentional ingestions” of cannabis by children have gone up significantly, said Hillary Alvarez, PACT's prevention coordinator. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found reports to the National Poison Data System of children under age 6 eating marijuana edibles rose from 207 in 2017 to 3,054 in 2021.

"The legalization of cannabis has created a number of new challenges that we have to come together to kind of address,” Alvarez said.

Lori-Ann Novello, executive director of Babylon Cares, said the purpose of the campaign is not to debate if cannabis should be legal, but to instead "find one unified message across the board — and that message is safety."

She added, "We're here to focus on things that should be really obvious — facts, based on data — to inform people on statistics, on regulations, on the law, and to explain precautions and concerns."

Two ads launched with the campaign warn: "Don't let youth get high on your supply. Keep it secure" and "Don't drive high. Get a ride."

The latter reminds that driving while under the influence of marijuana can be dangerous and remains illegal. It is also illegal to use or have unsecured cannabis in any motor vehicle, even parked, in the state.

According to the New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, 44% of all traffic fatalities in the state between 2006 and 2016 were the result of an impaired driver, and "even a moderate dose of cannabis was shown to impair driving performance."

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