Push for marijuana legalization comes down to wire before legislative session ends

Posted: Updated:
WHITE PLAINS -

The push to legalize recreational marijuana in New York is coming down to the wire as the legislative session is set to end in just over a week.

If New York legalizes marijuana, it would follow Illinois as the 12th state in the U.S. to do so.

Jeffery Veatch of Yorktown blames marijuana, in part, for killing his teenage son. He says his son began with marijuana at 14 years old before moving to snorting heroin at 18 years old.

Most police chiefs in the state also oppose legalizing recreational marijuana, saying they need guidelines on how to measure THC. THC is the compound in marijuana that makes someone high.

Chief Paul Oliva of the Mount Pleasant Police Department says there's no reason to rush legislation until more research can be done on the positive or negative impact to communities.

Kathy Kaufman, a legalization advocate, says she's done plenty of research and sees the issue through a different lense that focuses on race and criminal justice.

Kaufman wrote a report on marijuana arrests and enforcement in Westchester County for a nonprofit focused on drug policy reform. She's become a staunch supporter of legalization because she believes, for generations, the current laws have unfairly targeted communities of color.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 61% of suburban residents support legalization. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was also a supporter for marijuana legalization earlier this year.

Cuomo laid out an extensive plan to regulate a recreational marijuana industry, tax it and spread the proposed $300 million tax windfall around the state. His plan faced roadblocks when Democratic lawmakers stripped the proposal out of the budget.

The biggest counties around New York City aren't waiting for lawmakers to decide on the legalization. The leaders of Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland and Putnam counties have all decided to opt-out of marijuana legalization, meaning they don't want it grown or sold in their communities.

Westchester County is the only undecided county around that area.

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