BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — New York State lawmakers appear to be getting closer to legalizing recreational marijuana.
On Tuesday State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says lawmakers were “extremely close” to legalizing recreational marijuana.
But she also says senators were trying to hammer out details of the proposed bill.
In a recent interview with 7 Eyewitness News Assembly Majority leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said she believes this is the year it could become legal.
“I’m actually more confident than I have been in the past,” declared Peoples-Stokes.
Peoples-Stokes has been a big supporter and propose passed bills, but they didn't make it this far.
Governor Cuomo said the call to legalize recreational use by adults would generate $300-million a year for the state and also end what he call's "exaggerated injustice" for minorities.
Peoples-Stokes said it's time to end the incarcerations happening at higher rates in black and brown communities.
“Provide for opportunities to invest in the lives of thousands of people who's lives have been negatively impacted by incarceration,” Peoples-Stokes explained.
“Drawing from the lessons in those states that have legalized marijuana — most of the dispensaries in those states are in communities of color — economically disadvantage community,” remarked J.P. Kennedy, U.S. Attorney, Western District of New York.
Although this is a state issue, U.S. Attorney Kennedy is a long time opponent against legalizing marijuana.
“First and foremost — is the public safety issue,” Kennedy noted.
That safety issue is where state lawmakers are at an impasse at this point, particularly on impaired driving.
“It’s very difficult for our law enforcers to be able to necessarily discern in short order, without blood test, exactly what substance a person has ingested, so it creates a nightmare for our law enforcers as well,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he can't comment on specifics to the state legislation, but he has conducted research and cites the Journal of American Medical Association findings of higher traffic fatalities in state's with legalized marijuana use.
“There were increased traffic fatalities in the four states that legalized marijuana and they calculate nationwide there would be 7,000 excess deaths every year,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said for New York State that could add up to 240 excess deaths.
The U.S. Attorney also explained it is a very powerful and potent drug compared to what it was 20 years ago.
“This isn’t your father’s marijuana,” explained Kennedy. “If we were to compare the THC content — which is a psycho-active chemical in marijuana from 20 years ago to today — 20 years ago it was like drinking one soda — one cola — today it would be like drinking 36, 16 ounce cappuccinos — the equivalency in terms of caffeine.”
Kennedy warns the state needs to be “very cautious” before taking the leap to legalize marijuana. But if approved — New York would join more than a dozen states that already allowed it.