Anthony Baney, a two-time Green Party candidate who is running again this year in Erie County's 3rd legislative district, penned this response to some recent anti-cannabis reports in the local media on behalf of WNY Normal.
“WNY NORML’s Response to Cuomo’s stance on legalization, and an article published in the East Aurora Advertiser.
Governor Andrew Cuomo responded to reporters on the issue of cannabis legalization in New York State by saying he does not support legalizing adult recreational use of cannabis. (http://www.wgrz.com/news/local/new-york/cuomo-unconvinced-on-legalizing-pot/406508157)
An article published in the East Aurora Advertiser (http://m.mywnynews.com/mobile/article_2f95a846-f2c1-11e6-aa06-a792720da06d.html) helps highlight the reason and public mentality as to why New York continues the era of prohibition of adult recreational use of cannabis.
The Governor brought up the gateway theory, and how Cannabis use may lead to use of other drugs. Dr. Carl Hart mentioned in this Congressional testimony, (http://drcarlhart.com/carl-hart-testifies-before-congress/) that the last 3 Presidents have smoked cannabis. If one is to argue that cannabis is a gateway drug, then they would have to argue smoking cannabis is a gateway to the White House.
The Author of the East Aurora Advertiser article mentioned driving while drugged. Obviously we could talk at great length about the number of alcohol related accidents and deaths resulting therefrom, but let’s provide a different perspective. While reading this NYS DMV report, one would find that illegal drugs make up .3% of all contributing factors resulting in a crash (https://dmv.ny.gov/statistic/2014-nyscrashsummary.pdf). Yet, while reading the same report, one would also find that debris/road obstruction and defective pavement collectively make up .9% of contributing factors resulting in a crash. This blatantly highlights the irony of the author’s statement “Do you feel that to sell out the safety, health and welfare of the people is worth having finances to build new bridges and road infrastructure in this state? There must be a better way.”
Also, when looking at national driving statistics we find a startling trend, which shows an issue that every Politician avoids. “In 2014, more than 5,700 older adults were killed and more than 236,000 were treated in emergency departments for motor vehicle crash injuries. This amounts to 16 older adults killed and 648 injured in crashes on average every day.” (https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/older_adult_drivers/). Now, let’s compare to national studies on drivers who have consumed cannabis. “That’s difficult to say,” replied Jeff Michael, NHTSA’s associate administrator for research and program development. “We don’t have a precise estimate.” The most he was willing to affirm was that the number is “probably not” zero.” (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobsullum/2015/02/12/if-marijuana-causes-lots-of-crashes-why-are-they-so-hard-to-count/#bcc8bd91585f). So now that we have the data, is the author suggesting that we now strip all elderly driver’s of their licenses due to the actions of a few? Is the author suggesting arresting all elderly people who possess a vehicle, and arresting all car dealers that sell an automobile to an elderly person based on the actions of a few? That is exactly how NYS laws treat those who possess cannabis.
The author brings up the point of hospital room visits from cannabis as documented in articles such as this (http://www.politico.com/story/2016/04/marijuana-emergency-room-visits-report-222147). While we should certainly argue for more research before allowing any product to be consumed by children, how can one argue for the arrest of thousands in NYS, for a substance – for adult use – which has produced zero deaths from consumption? Let’s examine a common legally used drug which any person may purchase over the counter, without a prescription in NYS. “Singh  estimated that 103,000 individuals are hospitalized annually in the United States for NSAID-related serious gastrointestinal complications at a cost in excess of two billion dollars. In addition, Singh  estimated that 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year in the United States among patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.” (https://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/02/briefing/3882B2_02_McNeil-NSAID.ht) In layman’s terms, a famous Kat Williams once joked that if you take 13 aspririn, that will be the last headache you ever have. So is the author suggesting that because a few people die from aspirin that people should be arrested for possessing aspirin without a prescription?
To summarize, what Governor Cuomo proposed in the Executive Budget is not legalization in any technical form but a limited form of decriminalization. The Governor has proposed amending NYS Penal Law Section 221.10 to remove those possessing cannabis in “public view” to be issued a violation. This still allows for arrest, and misdemeanor charges for “smoking in public”, under NYS Penal Law Section 221.10. What we, as WNY NORML, continue to lobby for is for the NYS Legislature to pass, and for Governor Cuomo to sign into law the NYS “Marijuana Regulation, and Taxation Act (Senate version 3040). This proposed bill still allows for the arrest of minors under the age of 18, if in possession of cannabis, under NYS Penal Law Section 221.10. This proposed bill still prevents licensed cannabis dispensaries from selling products to those under the age of 21, just as is the case with alcohol. The author suggested waiting for more research before legalizing. Well, the NYS Legislature is slow at even passing such common sense legislation as raising the age of criminal responsibility as well as many other criminal justice reform proposed bills. The NYS MRTA Bill is stuck in Finance Committee, and Chair of Finance, Catherine Young, seems to have absolutely no interest in even bringing this proposed bill up for even a discussion, let alone, a vote. I, Anthony Baney, have called her office numerous times, and was swatted away by staff like an annoying fly when asked the simple question, “Will this proposed bill ever come up for discussion?” We ask for any remaining sensible residents of New York to demand reform, by contacting their state Senators and Assemblymembers.”
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