OMBUDSMAN ALERT: Mixed Reviews for Legalized Weed

BY DR. LOUIS ALPERT

Just last week (on February 28) this column praised Cuomo’s action in including the “REAR SEAT-BELT LAW in his proposed 2019 budget.

This action will certainly improve passenger safety on New York’s highways! However, the recent news concerning governor Cuomo’s interest in legalizing recreational Marijuana will be a huge step back for the safety of New York’s drivers and their passengers as shown by the increase of fatal accidents in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. A good example of such a tragic increase comes from the state of Colorado where statistics reveal that “Marijuana related traffic deaths increased 66 percent in the four-year average (2013-2016) since Colorado legalized recreational compared to the four-year average(2009-2012) prior to legalization.”

Just last week in an article titled “Rockland Sheriff Leads Backlash Against Marijuana Legalization,” written by Kathy Kahn of this newspaper, revealed the opposition of Sheriff Louis Falco to this initiative of our governor. When this Ombudsman spoke to Sheriff Falco and asked if there was any level of Marijuana use (analogous to a certain BAC level for a DWI offense) his answer was, simply, “I have zero tolerance for marijuana use when someone is driving an automobile.”

Ombudsman Alert has also reached out to our elected officials, Senator David Carlucci and Assemblypersons Ken Zebrowski and Ellen Jaffee, for their positions on this proposed legalization of recreational Marijuana and hope to report their support or rejection for such legislation in the next installation of this column.

Ombudsman Alert also reached out to the police chiefs of Rockland’s towns for their comments on the proposed marijuana legalization and its possible impact on highway and auto safety. Ombudsman Alert hopes to publish their responses, as well.

Clarkstown Police Chief Raymond McCullagh issued the following statement:

“I oppose the action to legalize regulated marijuana in New York State. As Police Officers, we are sworn to enforce laws and to protect the public. I believe that this drug will be misused and put the safety and security of the community in jeopardy.

“The Town of Clarkstown is currently battling an opioid epidemic with law enforcement and public health professionals on the frontline. Legalization of marijuana would only increase the amount of injuries and deaths that will occur due to individuals being impaired by drugs. We don’t need that.

“New York State has seen a decrease in traffic fatalities to the lowest numbers on record. In comparing data in Colorado (which legalized marijuana in 2013), the first year that marijuana was legalized traffic fatalities increased 62 percent in that one year. I don’t want to see that impact on our community.

“New York Lawmakers must look at the safety impact this drug has had on other states that have legalized it. So far those numbers show that it is not in the best interest of our community. Please join me in my opposition.”

In summary, this ombudsman hopes that our governor will reconsider his support for the legalization of recreational Marijuana in light of the continuing flow of published studies coming from states that have had substantial increases in fatal auto accidents correlated with the legalization of recreational Marijuana.