With the state budget process coming to a close on April 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains confident a vote to legalize recreational marijuana can be completed by that time. His confident endorsement is focusing on decriminalizing the drug and increasing state revenue rather than thinking about his constituents’ personal health. Decriminalization and expunging criminal records of low-level drug offenders will alleviate pressures on the judicial system initially, but what are we giving up in the long-run? Our efforts will be shifted to drugged-driving crashes that of which will still carry a cost via law enforcement and emergency responders. I applaud Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck for looking at the bigger picture, as presented on Feb. 8, as he stood in solidarity with other sheriffs across New York state in opposition to this vote. Data provided within the article shows the negative side of legalization in Colorado with increased crime rate and traffic incidences. Advocates tend to dismiss the harsh realities that come with legalization of such a “harmless” drug. Where does this apathetic attitude towards illegal drug use end? If more people chose to use another illegal substance in the future will we decriminalize it as well for the sake of ease?
Governor Cuomo should keep in mind the individuals his choice will impact. Even though the law would be for ages 21 and older, youth would gain easier access to the drug. Not only will we have to educate on and try to deter youth from underage drinking, but underage marijuana use will also be another issue to tackle. If we were to focus on the legal consumers of the drug, haven’t we been through this scenario before with tobacco corporations? Ignorance of long-term effects does not equate to a green light to use a product.
While I am encouraged by the monitored and medically-driven use of cannabis, I am fearful of its recreational drawbacks for youth as well as adults. Will this point in time be seen as a step forward with drug use in our society or a step backward? Only time will tell.