Several local officials interviewed Friday said they hope New York doesn’t follow the direction of Washington and Colorado in allowing for the regulated use of marijuana. In response to legalization votes last fall in those two states, the Department of Justice said Thursday it will allow its use as long as it is kept away from children, the black market and federal property.
“We are concerned about it on several levels,” said Julia Dostal, executive director of the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions. “It sends the wrong message to young people who may think its not dangerous.” As a society, she said, there is a responsibility to make decisions that put children “at the lowest amount of risk.”
Marijuana is still classified as a federal Schedule 1 drug, she said, and currently there is no credible medical benefit to smoked marijuana, she said. While its components may serve such a purpose, the Food and Drug Administration has not done the type of controlled study needed to prove that. With some states voting to change the law, “it’s a confusing message,” she said.
“We haven’t done a really good job of protecting young people from alcohol,” which kills 1,700 college students a year, she said. The younger a person is when using marijuana, the greater their risk for developing such mental illnesses as schizophrenia, she said.
“We don’t know how serious it is,” she said.
Oneonta Police Chief Dennis Nayor said “I have concerns about it being more accessible.”
Being a drug, it affects what a person does, he said, and “it could be a gateway to other drugs.” He said he didn’t want to comment on the actions of legislative government, but as a police officer, “I have concerns,” he said.
If it becomes more readily available, law enforcement will deal with the results, he said, adding that alcohol is well-regulated and it is still very abused drug. If a medical doctor said it could be useful, decriminalizing it could be a possibility, but it should not be used for recreational purposes, he said.
Assemblyman Bill Magee, D- Nelson, is chairman of the New York Assembly’s agriculture committee. He said he’d be opposed to legalizing marijuana because he tries to respect the wishes of his constituents, and “I don’t think they would like this idea.”
While he continues to monitor the situation, “I have a lot of reservations about it,” he said, and he doesn’t see any value in it for state agriculture.
Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond said his agency opposes the legalization of marijuana, as does the state Sheriff’s Association.
“Most of us see it as a gateway drug” leading to other substances and bigger problems, he said.
Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. said he was also opposed to marijuana legalization. He said he doesn’t have an opinion on whether the Department of Justice should intercede at the state level, but doesn’t want the law to change here. He said he has heard from law enforcement officials in states where the restrictions have changed, who told him to “learn from our mistakes,” Devlin said.