A public policy group led by former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra is calling on state lawmakers to legalize recreational marijuana.
The group is called NY Grows and kicked off its effort to legalize marijuana state-wide in Buffalo on Tuesday morning. Members argue that the prohibition on marijuana is failing, as evidenced by what they see as widespread use of the illicit drug across the state.
"Let's take our head out of the sand," Giambra said. "Young people are using marijuana today. It's in our high schools. It's in our colleges. It's happening."
And since it is still happening, NY Grows is calling for state lawmakers to pass a bill legalizing marijuana use for those 18 years and older. They say it is safer than alcohol or cigarette use and should be regulated and taxed in a similar way.
"When I say legal I mean regulated," explained Nicolas Eyle, a drug policy consultant for NY Grows. "Beer is legal, but it is regulated. You have to be a certain age, the purity, the strength of it is controlled."
The group estimates the state would take in an additional $600 million dollars in tax revenue under the proposed bill. They are calling for that money to be allocated to infrastructure improvements across New York State.