To kick off his election to a third term as Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo announced his plans to legalize cannabis for adult use in the first 100 days of 2019. Criminal justice reform advocates, pro-legalization groups, elected politicians and even some in law enforcement hailed the move. But on Thursday, groups with the Parent-Teacher Association joined wth high-ranking law enforcement groups to launch a campaign aimed at derailing Gov. Cuomo’s push toward legalization.
Sheriff’s Association and PTA Prepare to “Blitz” The Albany Statehouse
The backlash against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to legalize adult-use cannabis was inevitable. And on Thursday, the Statehouse in Albany saw the first organized effort to counter the governor’s agenda. No surprise, either, that law enforcement chiefs, anti-legalization public health administrators and parents are trotting out the same tired arguments against progressive drug policy. Arguments that legalization will create traffic safety problems, public health crises, untrained police departments, increased underage use and even death. “People will die as a result of people making the destructive decision of using marijuana,” said Oneida Country Sheriff and president of the Sheriffs Association Rob Maciol.
We know they’re tired arguments not only because legalization in 10 other states has shown them to be exaggerated or false. Not only because the harms of prohibition measurably outweigh the potential risks of legalization. But because the New York Department of Health commissioned an exhaustive study that ended with a direct recommendation to fully legalize, tax and regulate a cannabis industry.
So when John Aresta—great name for a cop—chief of Malverne police and president of the statewide chiefs group is dumbfounded that Gov. Cuomo reversed his stance on legalization—”In 2017, this was a gateway drug, now in 2019 it’s not?” Aresta said—he might want to read the Health Department’s report himself and see what the governor found so convincing.
Legalization Advocates Must Counter Threadbare Anti-Legalization Arguments
These are the law enforcement heads that are teaming up with the PTA to push back against legalization. This is the group that announced on Thursday its plans to blitz the statehouse next week. Hopefully, Albany lawmakers will have some extra copies of the Health Department’s report on hand.
But they’ll have to contend with some very real reefer-madness from concerned parents. Speaking with reporters, director of the NY State PTA Kyle Belokopitsky teared up as she explained how two 15-year-olds smoked weed around her and her 9-year-old on a ski lift. And to be fair, concerns about teen cannabis use are not unfounded. The popularity of vaping, some studies suggest, may cause more young people to start consuming cannabis.
Those are valid concerns. But legalization and regulation is from a safety standpoint better than a regime of prohibition in every way. Revenue from legal sales pay for drug awareness campaigns, health studies, and programs to educate teens about the risks of underage cannabis use.
That’s why the best argument the police and the PTA have against legalization is that New York isn’t ready. Or rather, New York’s government agencies aren’t ready. New Yorkers have been clamoring for legalization as a social and criminal justice measure for decades.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the group getting ready to blitz Albany to stop legalization, too much tax revenue will likely end up paying for more law enforcement. For more so-called drug-detection experts, detection training and expensive roadside testing devices.
Importantly, the Cuomo administration says it will engage with all sectors of the public on the issue of legalization. But Cuomo spokesman Tyrone Stevens also said the governor remains committed to addressing the harms of prohibition.