Weed it and weep: Local leaders blast marijuana legalization efforts

Not so high opinion: Assemblywoman Jaime Williams (D–Marine Park) called recreational marijuana “a known vice” at a recent rally against legalizing the tax and sale of the drug.
Mel Evans/AP

They’re not high on the idea.

Marine Park civic leaders blasted state officials’ push to legalize and tax the sale of recreational marijuana, which would bring in revenue at the expense of citizens’ well being, said one local pol at a rally on March 23.

“While the need for revenue is obvious for our state, it can never come at the expense of our citizens and constituency, and certainly not through the use of a known vice and narcotics,” said Assemblywoman Jaime Williams (D–Marine Park).

Williams hosted the rally outside of her district office at 5318 Avenue N along with state Sen. Roxanne Persaud and Marine Park Civic Association President Robert Tracey.

The anti-weed rally comes after talks in Albany have stalled over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to include legalization in the state budget, which is due April 1.

In recent years, New Yorkers have seen an increase in backing for loosening pot laws, as 65 percent of state residents and 69 percent of city dwellers support decriminalization efforts, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

Williams has been supportive of those measures, including voting for a 2017 bill to seal conviction records for low-level marijuana offenses.

But Williams has stopped short of full legalization, which is supported by 62 percent of city residents, suggesting a link between the drug and mental health issues.

“Although the use of marijuana may not have had deaths occurring from it, there have been several studies that have linked marijuana as to long term effects and possible adverse changes to the brain, and an increased risk of psychiatric disorders,” she said during a March 13 speech on the assembly floor.

Her fears about the sticky-green substance are overblown, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit aimed at reforming drug laws.

“There is no compelling evidence that marijuana causes some psychiatric disorders in otherwise healthy individuals,” says the group. “Most tellingly, rates of schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses have remained flat even during periods of time when marijuana use rates have increased.”

State lawmakers will continue to debate the governor’s legalization scheme as part of the annual budget until the April 1 deadline. If the measure fails to gain enough support, they could continue to debate the matter as a standalone issue through the legislative session ending in June.

Cuomo estimated in his January State of the State address that legal weed-related revenue would secure the state $300 million a year, which Williams dismissed as a rotten bargain.

“This is a prime example of a slippery slope measure,” she said. “Yes, it could bring revenue to this state, and yes it does have pain relieving effects. But, is this all at the expense of our children?”

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577.
Toke it elsewhere: Assemblywoman Jaime Williams led an anti-pot legalization rally outside her district office on March 23.
Jaime Williams’ Office

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