UB researcher among state's 20-member workgroup on legalizing marijuana

Aug 3, 2018

A University at Buffalo researcher will be a key figure, as Albany looks into legal marijuana for adults.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants his 20-member workgroup to draft legislation for the new state Legislature coming into office in January. The group will build upon a new study from the New York State Health Department, which decided the benefits of what Cuomo called a "regulated adult-use marijuana program" are greater than the detriments.

The state already has a system for medical marijuana, which has had a lot of problems.

Lorraine Collins, associate dean for research at UB's School of Public Health and Health Professions, does substance abuse research, including marijuana and adult use. Collins has been appointed to the workgroup and said she objects to the term "recreational use."

The University at Buffalo's Lorraine Collins
Credit University at Buffalo

"For example, we regulate tobacco products. We regulate alcohol. I haven't hear anyone refer to recreational tobacco or recreational alcohol," Collins said. "So I think we are trying to stick with using language that actually reflects what we're trying to do."

Collins said there are substantial problems because a lot more research is needed on the health and safety of marijuana, as the level of psycho-active THC in the drug rises and because states like Colorado have legalized pot so recently.

"Please remember that medicinal cannabis use is focused on health problems," Collins said. "What we are now talking about is, are there people who might want to consume cannabis for reasons other than a health problem?"

The workgroup may also recommend scrubbing criminal records of those busted for pot use, as Canada is doing before legal marijuana sales start across the border in October.

The workgroup will be led by Cuomo counsel Alphonso David, who will also serve as liaison between the governor's office and stakeholders. Others in the group are close to Cuomo, including the state health commissioner, budget director, agriculture commissioner and economic development czar, Howard Zemsky of Buffalo.