BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - The majority of registered voters in New York State are in favor of legal recreational marijuana for adults, according to an Emerson College public opinion survey. 62 percent of all voters support legalizing and taxing marijuana.
The survey was commissioned by Marijuana Policy Project Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance.
Support for legal marijuana crossed all party lines, with 71 percent of Independents, 63 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans reporting they would like to see recreational marijuana in New York.
According to the survey, younger voters are more likely to support legalizing marijuana.
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes has introduced legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana in New York the past three years, but it has never been voted on or even discussed in committee. She supports the measure for social justice reasons.
"Deal with the fact that lives are being destroyed," she explained. "Communities are being destroyed. Children are growing up without parents. Parents are not there for their children. Life is just not good for people who are arrested for small amounts of marijuana."
Even though marijuana use is essentially even across racial lines, research from the Partnership for the Public Good shows a large disparity when it comes to arrests for "low-level marijuana possession" in Buffalo and Erie County.
"Even though in Erie County people of color are about 18 percent of the population, they account for over 3/4 of the arrests," Sam Magavern, the group's executive director, explained.
Neither Magavern nor Peoples-Stokes support the use of marijuana, but they both agree it is time for New York to treat it as a public health problem, rather than a criminal problem.
Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana use. New York State already allows medical marijuana use under certain restrictions.