Senator Fred Akshar on Passage of S.854 to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Statement from Senator Fred Akshar on Passage of S.854

The provisions in today’s legislation to legalize recreational marijuana (S.854), as written, are setting up our communities, our emergencies services workers, our police, our healthcare workers, our schools, teachers and families to fail. Whether its the countless scientific health and safety studies and recommendations or the stacks of memos of opposition from organizations representing millions of New Yorkers, including the Medical Society, school districts, parent-teacher organizations, trade organizations and law enforcement, we know the cost this legislation will have on the health and safety of our communities. We know the truth, yet those in power choose to ignore it. We know that even in a best case scenario, those charged with serving and protecting the public are being set up to fail by the leaders of this state. We know that in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, fatal accidents have shot up - a nearly 50% increase in Colorado and double in Washington. Across the board in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, we’ve seen substantial increases in vehicle accidents vs. neighboring states where it is not legal. We know that unemployment has risen, marijuana hospitalizations and teen suicide have risen as well as mental health rates. This is not opinion, this is not conjecture, this is not politics. These are facts. We’ve seen the studies showing how marijuana use alters the minds of adolescents and adults alike, changes brain chemistry and dopamine receptors that puts them on the path toward use and abuse of not only marijuana but other drugs as well. As more states legalize marijuana, more and more studies are showing the inevitable addictions that come right along with it. We know how this long-term, heavy use is linked to psychological and physical health concerns, lower educational attainment, decline in social class, unemployment, and motor vehicle crashes. We know driving under the influence of THC can’t be enforced like drunk driving, and that at best, only Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) can enforce this new drug law. Even then, with new and odorless ways of ingesting marijuana that will cause observable impairment, DREs and prosecutors will be unable to hold someone accountable who drives under the influence. We also know that out of the 55,000 police officers across this entire state, there are only 343 Drug Recognition Experts. Yet there is no funding included to train more DREs. We know the public safety costs up to communities and emergency services will be in the hundreds of millions the first year alone, and nearly $200 million each year after that. We know New York spends nearly $40 million dollars each year trying to stop people from smoking and vaping alone, yet no money is included to discourage individuals from using and abusing marijuana. Just last year, New York outlawed all flavored vaping products because we know that it makes smoking more attractive to children, yet today our leaders voted to open the floodgates to Marijuana gummies, candies, cookies and other edibles. Are we to assume our leaders in Albany think the same children we worked to protect from flavored vaping are not worth protecting from drug abuse? Far too often we learn of the unintended negative consequences stemming from misguided policies that come out of Albany, which end up doing more harm than good for the people of this state. Today I offer that we all know what the negative consequences of this legislation will be, but leadership chooses to simply ignore it. I would offer that this kind of willful ignorance renders these negative consequences intentional. The lives lost, the damage done to communities and families are preventable and avoidable. I cannot support something that sets our communities up to fail. That’s why I voted NO and I applaud the members of the Democrat Majority who shared similar concerns and also voted NO.