Debate over legal recreational marijuana use continues as budget deadline approaches

March 19, 2019 06:38 PM

ALBANY - The state budget deadline is less than two weeks away and the debate over legalizing recreational marijuana is taking center stage.

On Monday Governor Andrew Cuomo said he's not sure if legal pot use will be included in the budget this year, but those both for and against its passage say it's not over yet.

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Opponents gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to tell lawmakers why they think the issue should be taken off the table altogether.

“I've seen lots of things rise from the dead in this building,” Executive Director of New York State Parent Teacher Association Kyle Belokopitsky said. “We're going to continue to push this issue."

Belokopitsky joined representatives from several other state agencies at a press conference outside Senate chambers.

Among their concerns are traffic safety issues, accidental child ingestion, and a lack of research on the long term affects. Opponents are also concerned about a lack of addiction resources.

"The infrastructure for prevention has not been given the attention that it needs,” Executive Director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse John Coppola said. “It's critical to have that in place before any legalization. It's critical to have in place the treatment infrastructure that we would need for people who develop a problem."

Assemblyman John McDonald agrees it should not be included in the budget this year, but he said that doesn't mean it shouldn't still be discussed.

"Let's deal with the criminal justice issue which has unfairly burdened many communities and establish a proper framework with proper legislative and executive and community input,” McDonald said.

Though it will probably take about $35 million and lots of negotiating, McDonald believes legal recreational pot use in New York is inevitable.

"You know the reality is legalized marijuana will be no different than buying alcohol,” McDonald said. “You'll buy something, you'll know what you're going to get, you'll know how it's going to impact you, but we have a long way to go before we get that in place."

There will be a roundtable on legal pot use this Thursday. Business leaders are going to meet with lawmakers to discuss how it would affect them, their employees and the people they serve.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates on this story.


Emily Burkhard

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