Sheriffs Show United Front Against Legalizing Pot

Sheriffs Show United Front Against Legalizing Pot

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Sheriffs from two north country counties are showing solidarity with their colleagues across the state and speaking out against legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

Jefferson County Sheriff Colleen O'Neill and St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells held a news conference Thursday morning in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo's push to legalize pot. 

Both sheriffs are against legalizing recreational use and say pot is a gateway drug that will lead to more crime.

"States that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana have seen alarming consequences," O'Neill said. "New York should be a leader in recognizing the difficulties, struggles and negative consequences these other states have suffered."

"Drug driving is just as bad as alcohol driving," Wells said. "We as law enforcement across the state are trying to quickly get through more drug recognition experts so we can combat this."

The sheriffs were armed with facts from Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The study says traffic deaths in Colorado, after weed was legalized in 2012, more than doubled between 2013 and 2017.

In 2017 specifically, 25 percent of traffic accident deaths were marijuana related.

"Without question, marijuana negatively affects your judgment and motor skills," said O'Neill.

When it comes to impaired driving, north country sheriff departments are basing their decisions on information out of Colorado. We spoke with one man who's currently in treatment for drug use. He says when it comes to impaired driving, marijuana isn't really the problem.

Jeffrey Barton has gone through treatment for alcohol and marijuana use for the last three years.

Barton has been clean for four months.

"It doesn't impair your vision at all. You think differently. Drinking and driving was really the main thing that made me impaired," he said.

There is no test for someone suspected of driving while high - like a breathalyzer test for someone who might be drunk.

Wells says both departments are researching ways to figure that out.

"We as law enforcement across the state are trying to quickly get more drug recognition experts so we can combat this," he said.

While Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli attended a news conference on the subject in Oneida County. He is also opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana.

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