Push Renewed For Recreational Pot In NY

Push Renewed For Recreational Pot In NY

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With little more than a week left in the legislative session, some state lawmakers and community advocates are renewing the push for legalized recreational marijuana in New York state.

State Sen. Liz Krueger and Assembly member Crystal Peoples-Stokes are joining with advocates organized by the Drug Policy Alliance Monday afternoon to announce reintroduction of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. 

"Now is the time for New York to make the smart choice and legalize marijuana and really focus on rebuilding communities in New York, taking advantage of the economic boom that is the marijuana industry," said Kassandra Frederick, the state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Past efforts have stalled in legislative committees.

The bill would establish a legal market for marijuana in New York and tax and regulate it like alcohol. 

The lawmakers say the potential tax revenue stream is considerable since it's estimated that New Yorkers spend $3 billion a year on marijuana.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been dubious about legalizing weed beyond limited medical use of non-smokeable forms.

Versions of the bill that would tax and regulate weed in a way similar to alcohol are in both the Senate and the Assembly.

North country Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R. - 117th District) doesn't support it.

"I've talked to many of our organizations in my district that deal with addiction and addicts and they all tell me that marijuana is a gateway drug. To legalize and tax the use of it would be capitalizing off the innocence of our young adults," he said.

One group that agrees is Pivot, the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council of Jefferson County.

"There's more access that youths and adults have to an impairing substance that can then work on those brain pathways to lead to other substance use or continued use, which of course could lead to addiction," said Alice Smiley, Pivot prevention educator.

Blankenbush says this time around the bill has no support in the Senate and he doesn't see it going anywhere this year.

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