LI elected officials raise safety concerns over impending marijuana legalization
Albany leaders say a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana is a done deal, but there are concerns emerging from Long Island on the bill.
State Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) says he's not yet ready to support the marijuana legalization bill, even though legislative leaders say a deal has been reached. Brooks says he and other Democrats who represent suburban areas still have questions about safety.
"In every state that expanded the use, they've seen an increase in car accidents," says Brooks. "I think we all recognize that's a problem. How do you detect who is driving under the influence? That's a big concern."
Prominent defense attorney Tony Lapinta says devices to fairly and accurately test drivers for marijuana use are still in the testing phase.
"Technology is getting there. There's a few companies that have developed machines that are being tested right now," says Lapinta. "New York is on the threshold of doing that. But absent that type of particularized machinery, this is a big problem for law enforcement."
It was expected that the marijuana bill would include a provision to allow counties to opt out of the law. Instead, the proposal gives that right to local governments -- cities, towns and villages. While they couldn't prohibit residents from using marijuana, they can prohibit the sale of it in their municipality. That suddenly presents Long Island's 13 towns with a surprise dilemma.
Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim says he's waiting for more details of the bill to come out, but admits that opting out of the law and turning away the tax revenues that comes with it is a tricky decision.
"All town supervisors, we're not going to look a gift horse in the mouth if there's some revenue to be made," says Wehrheim. "What do you do if we say no and right over the border they say yes and they're getting the funding and we're not?"
Sales tax revenue is estimated to be $350 million annually.
A vote in the state Senate is expected next Tuesday. No date has been set in the state Assembly, but leadership says the measure is expected to pass.