New York lawmakers held a session Thursday morning about legalizing recreational cannabis. According to a notice posted in December by chairs of the Assembly Committee on Codes, Health, and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse said, “This hearing will examine the potential for allowing regulated sale and adult possession of marijuana in New York and how it would affect public health and the criminal justice systems.”
During the hearing, that took place yesterday, 26 people testified before this committee regarding the future of recreational marijuana in New York. Because New York voters cannot vote on this issue directly, it is up to state legislatures to make the call. It worked in Vermont…and if those in support of legal weed in New York get their way, the Big Apple could be next.
Legalization Proponents in New York Speak Out
One of the most powerful statements at the meeting came from psychiatrist, Dr. Julie Holland. She’s been a psychiatrist for over 20 years, and for nine has been the attending physician of the psychiatric emergency room at Bellevue Hospital in New York.
Holland began her testimony by saying that all Americans consume drugs daily that change their consciousness. These drugs include “caffeine, nicotine, anti-anxiety meds, antidepressants, sleeping pills, pain medications, alcohol, and even sugar.” Cravings for sugar (and the crashes associated with its consumption) according to Holland, are a “muted imitation” of a cocaine high.
She went on to note that alcohol and cigarettes kill countless Americans, while cannabis remains non-lethal. She also stated that “our current drug policy is irrational”, noting that K2 and Spice don’t show up in drug tests, and are therefore being taken by active military members. These forms of synthetic cannabis are known to be extremely dangerous, yet they’re legal while marijuana remains criminalized in many parts of the nation.
Lastly Holland noted that the widespread legalization of cannabis is needed to combat substance abuse, particularly with the opioid epidemic that is ravaging the country.
Kassandra Frederique is another that spoke at Thursday’s hearing. The State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance offered the audience some startling statistics. In 2016, New York Police arrested 23,000 people on low-level marijuana possession charges. This averages down to about 60 arrests per day. What’s more, is that 85 percent of the total number of marijuana arrests were black and Latino individuals below the age of 30.
Will New York Listen to Its People and Legalize Recreational Pot?
The three-hour joint committee meeting has given some hope to the people of New York who want to see weed legalized. The testimonies of those who favor legalization were strong, and could ultimately convince the powers-that-be that recreational weed isn’t such a bad idea after all.