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Readers weigh in on legalized marijuana in New York State

Letters to Newsday for Sunday, March 17, 2019

A bowl of marijuana at the MedMen dispensary

A bowl of marijuana at the MedMen dispensary in West Hollywood, California, on Jan. 2, 2018. Photo Credit: Bloomberg / Patrick T. Fallon

The March 14 news story “Pot opt-out planned” states that “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to make pot legal would allow counties and cities with more than 100,000 residents to opt out.” That means a county or city with 99,999 residents could not opt out. That’s a ridiculous rationale. It’s discriminatory. Just let any county or city opt out. Legalizing pot is bad enough, but to restrict those who can opt out is not well thought out by the governor.

James J. McCormick, East Northport

Long Islanders need to consider the benefits of marijuana legalization for our region. The long-term consequence of rejection will be a massive financial lost opportunity, especially if the drug will be legal elsewhere in the state. It seems that many have outdated and misinformed views about marijuana and the effects of legalization. There are many upsides. In Colorado and California, two states with legal marijuana, government studies found declining rates of use among teens. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found strong evidence for marijuana as a treatment for chronic pain. This could help alleviate the opioid crisis.

Make a comparison to alcohol. When bars open in a downtown, we consider it a revival. Since the idea of marijuana retail space is new to us, we really have to wrap our heads around the concept. If it isn’t illegal, it is no different from having a liquor store in town. The added tax revenue alone is a reason to welcome this new business sector, not deny it.

Josh Firer, Massapequa Park

As we approach legal recreational marijuana in New York, it is important to consider its impact on the prosecution of cases for driving under the influence of marijuana.

Currently, district attorneys in New York have discretion to reduce charges for driving while intoxicated by alcohol, a misdemeanor, to driving while impaired by alcohol, a traffic infraction. This allows individuals to avoid a criminal record, and reduces costs of such prosecutions by avoiding a trial.

There is no infraction for driving while impaired by marijuana because the drug has been illegal. With legalization, legislators must consider amending vehicle and traffic law 1192 to include a traffic infraction for the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired by marijuana. Without doing so, courts will become clogged with prosecutions, and individuals charged with driving while impaired by marijuana will still suffer the same consequences as found in the criminal justice system before legalization.

Steven Epstein, Garden City

Editor’s note: The writer is head of DWI/vehicular crimes litigation for a private law firm.

Kudos to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran for opposing the sale of “recreational marijuana” and to other local governments planning or considering prohibitions. Hopefully, enough municipalities will follow suit that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, state lawmakers and any other supporters will drop their plan to legalize pot.

In my view, recreation includes hiking, jogging, biking, golf, etc. The term “recreational marijuana” is an effort to put a positive spin on an activity that can bring only negative consequences: increases in impaired driving, smoking in public, and leading young people into a gateway drug by giving them the idea that pot is OK because it’s legal. Don’t put the public at risk. Smoking marijuana, or smoking anything for that matter, is not recreational.

Gerard Porcelli, Farmingdale

If pot is legalized in New York State, and municipalities opt out of the law, will they also close liquor stores and establishments that serve alcohol? There should be no opt-outs in the law.

Mark Stysiack, Ridge

As a controlled medical substance, marijuana has proved helpful. However, if New York State allows recreational use of marijuana, can lawmakers please consider 26 as the legal age for use and purchase? This is the age at which adults are no longer eligible for dependent child health coverage and are responsible for their own insurance. Let young people make risky choices, such as whether to use drugs, upon age 26.

In addition, experts say the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which governs personality and decision-making, is not fully developed until about age 25, and I fear that pot use could harm that process. Also, if the legal age were 26, manufacturers might be less likely to target children, as we see with e-cigarettes and vaping products.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says marijuana can be addictive. Experts say it can reduce motivation and goals, and impair learning and memory.

We need lawmakers to work with experienced health experts to create wise policies for the sake of our future generations.

Karen Rodriguez, Huntington

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana lacks one thing. How about a list of all the jobs that still won’t allow the consumption of marijuana? What about bus drivers, pilots and utility workers — even on their own time? What private industries won’t allow it? I would appreciate seeing a list in the newspaper of those who could still be penalized for smoking pot.

Ken Trypuc, Massapequa

Kudos to the leaders of Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as local governments, for pushing back against legalized sales of marijuana. They recognize the short- and long-term detrimental impacts on the health of constituents. They are not simply focused on “positive” economic impacts.

Revenue from taxes and licensing would be more than offset by the cost of the health crisis that will ensue. All towns on Long Island and in the state should ban sales, delivering a unified message to Albany.

To politicians who oppose legal marijuana but say they are resigned to its inevitability, we did not vote for you to roll over on issues as important as this.

William Shanahan, North Hempstead

The prospect of legal marijuana has caused an outcry in many communities on Long Island. Yet little is said about the detrimental effect of alcohol. Some communities want to put marijuana stores in industrial areas. Liquor stores and bars are all over, not restricted from residential areas. Legalizing recreational marijuana will help remove the criminal element and provide needed revenue.

I do not advocate the use of marijuana in any public place, but to use it in one’s own home should be a matter of personal choice.

Edward Glickstein, East Meadow

If Nassau and Suffolk counties opt out of legal sales of marijuana, people will just go to where it is legal to purchase it, depriving those counties of tax revenue. Some are concerned about young people being adversely influenced. Don’t these people realize that the young already obtain it illegally? And with legalization, there would be standards in quality that do not exist on the street.

Michael Seewald, Manorville

Before our governor and lawmakers run to make marijuana legal, among other issues, they had better consider the stench. My wife and I were at lunch at a local sports bar when three young men approached the booth behind us. They reeked of dope. Soon, the whole area smelled like skunk pot. We complained to a waitress, who agreed that the odor was offensive. Near their booth was a family with young children, and they seemed upset.

The state should prepare for increased conflict and possibly violence over the stench in public places. And restaurants should prepare to have people walk out.

Michael Clancy, Remsenburg

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