With recreational marijuana legislation left out of the recently passed New York State budget, advocates for legal cannabis are pressing state lawmakers to approve a standalone bill, ideally by the end of the current legislative session. In the meantime, members of the Drug Policy Alliance are criticizing the governor for what they deem a failure to deliver on a promise of criminal justice reform.
Members of the Drug Policy Alliance hosted a teleconference Tuesday afternoon, explaining that "the drug is not going away" and so the state should be looking to craft legislation to regulate it.
But they want it done thoroughly.
"We're not going to allow regulation to be shoehorned in a big ugly act at the end of June," said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Actually, we're going to fight for legislative response that is actually comprehensive."
Frederique was among those critical of Governor Cuomo for his "inability to close the deal on ending marijuana arrests back in 2013." Days before the state budget was passed, Cuomo announced a legal recreational marijuana act would not be included in the budget deal.
Advocates for legal marijuana say by continuing to criminalize it, people are losing jobs, freedom and custody of children over a substance which, according to Dr. David Nathan of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, has been found to be safer than tobacco and alcohol.
Continuing marijuana prohibition, he argues, is failing to keep it out of the hands of minors.
"Underage use, other than in limited medical circumstances, is always a bad idea because of the degree to which it can affect development of the brain. That said, cannabis prohibition has far from prevented underage use and in some ways has probably increased it," Nathan said. "The way we know that is by the government's own statistics that 80 to 90 percent of 18-year-olds in the United States, for decades, have reported easy access to cannabis if they want to obtain it."