New York Considers Making Recreational Marijuana Use Legal

Christine Cavallucci, Executive Director of ADAPP, spoke against legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes (Photo: Kathy Kahn)

By Kathy Kahn

Andrew Cuomo, who once declared he was against the legalization of marijuana, a Schedule 1 drug (on par with heroin), now seems to be working his way towards getting weed legalized for recreational use as well.

The large room in SUNY Orange’s Newburgh campus was filled to capacity October 1 with those both for and against the idea of making marijuana legal for recreational purposes for adults over 21. It was one of 12 “listening sessions” the governor ordered across the state to get the public’s input.

Christine Cavallucci, executive director of ADAPP (Archdiocese of New York Drug Abuse Prevention Program (Rockland, Orange and Westchester), said the harm outweighs the good when it comes to making pot legal, adding that was a gateway drug for children.

More in favor than opposed came forward to tell the moderator how marijuana has helped them maintain their emotional well-being and been helped them medically. Newburgh resident Ophra Wolf, who graduated at the top of her class at the University of California at Berkley, said she’s been smoking regularly since she was 16. “No one is going to stop using it and neither am I. People have been using marijuana for thousands of years, and it’s going to continue,” she said. Another Orange County resident, an Iraqi Freedom veteran, said she and thousands of veterans have been using marijuana to help cope with PTSD related to combat.

There are already several marijuana facilities already licensed here to grow medical marijuana and to extract the cannabidiol from the plant so patients will not get the THC “high” that comes from home-grown varities, but still get relief from chronic pain, chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis and a dozen other diseases that have left them dependent on opioids. New York and 29 other states have already passed this into law.

New York State conducted a study released in mid-summer 2017, showing the benefit of legalization would reduce the number of deaths from opioid use and also be a tax revenue stream for the state. The NYS Legislature is preparing a bill to legalize marijuana that’s expected to be introduced in the January, 2019 session. Among other items, legislators will be reviewing whether or not to expunge the criminal records for those with marijuana convictions—depending upon the “weight” they were arrested for.

Nine other states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, D.C.—have passed laws to allow recreational use of marijuana. New York is pitching to become the tenth. Out of those1 0, the percentage of users is under 18 percent of every state’s population.