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More than 60 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll support the legalization in New York of personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.
In his 2013 State of the State address in January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo renewed his call for decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana. His plan was not included in the recently approved state budget, but it could be raised again before the end of the legislative session.
Since 1977, New York law has made a distinction between “open view” possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana and possession of the same amount in one's home. Open-view possession is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, while in-home possession is a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine.
Cuomo argues that this legal distinction is inequitable and that enforcement of the criminal-possession law is a poor use of public funds. Thirty-seven percent of RBJ Snap Poll respondents oppose legalizing marijuana possession in the state, but more than half of those say it should be decriminalized.
A recent national Pew Research Center poll found that 52 percent of Americans now think marijuana should be legal—the first time a majority has supported that position. In the Pew poll, 45 percent said it should be illegal.
In November, Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize the possession (up to one ounce) and sale of marijuana for recreational use—though it remains illegal under federal law. A similar ballot measure was defeated in Oregon. Among other arguments, supporters in these states said legalization would create a big new source of tax revenue.
Nearly 1,000 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted April 8 and 9.
Should personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana be legalized in New York?
No, but decriminalize it: 19%
No, it should be a criminal offense: 18%
Yes, but for medicinal purposes only. It's time to recognize that marijuana has a place in the treatment of certain diseases and treatment side effects.
—Holly Anderson, Breast Cancer Coalition
Control marijuana in all aspects, like alcohol.
Absolutely do not legalize; these types of steps only tend to deteriorate the ability of our society to have and to strengthen strong moral values.
We're talking about pot, right? Grass? Hippy lettuce? Finally, we've resolved everything else and can give this highly important issue our full attention.
It's time we stopped wasting our tax dollars enforcing outdated laws and incarcerating non-violent offenders for possession of a weed. Enough is enough!
New York State could certainly use the revenue and would realize additional benefits from not sinking dollars into the prosecution and incarceration of offenders that today make up a percentage of criminals that is disproportionate to the overall impact of their "crimes" on our society. If you take the money out of the business, the criminals will leave it, as well.
The fewer government-imposed restrictions on our lives, the less big-brother intrusions, the more freedoms we can recapture, the better off we'll all be!
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.
I think New York has bigger problems than a weed that has been proven to have other useful purposes aside from getting stoned at a Phish show. Recreational drugs are not my cup of tea, but who am I to tell someone what they can or cannot put in their bodies when the stuff really doesn't harm anyone? I've yet to meet a mean, nasty stoner, but I've dealt with more than my fair share of mean, nasty drunks.
—Lester Wilson, Syracuse
When will we ever learn that the "war on drugs" was lost before the first shot was fired? For more than 100 years, we've fought, but to what effect? Drugs are readily available and the price has dropped. We tried it with alcohol in the ’20s, and what did we get? Organized crime, just like the drug cartels now currently making billions. The marijuana issue, I believe, was started by cotton farmers who didn't want "hemp" competing with their crop. Morphine and laudanum were legal at the turn of the century, as was cocaine, and all were made illegal to fight the nasty nature of their effects. But if someone wants to use heroin or meth or cocaine or any other substance, they will find a way. Let them! Let's use the "War On Drugs" savings (from DEA agents, cops, lawyers, prisons, judges, parole officers, not to mention the long-term effect of putting all these people in jail and ruining their lives) for treatment and rehab. We don't have to do it all at once, but we could start with marijuana. Washington State and Colorado have already done it. Has there been an increase in usage? Probably, but so what! If someone wants to live in a haze, let's make it legal, tax it and, like alcohol, have zero tolerance for anyone caught using it while driving or on school grounds or any other public safety concern. As long as their use doesn't impact me (as in drunk driving), I'm willing to let them do whatever they want in the privacy of their own space.
—Bob Fischl, president, Top Creative Concepts, Honeoye Falls
It's a tossup between being drunk and being stoned. Both have significant health consequences. But one has a huge lobby behind it, while the other doesn't. If caught with marijuana, confiscate and trash it. The same if an open bottle of liquor was found in a vehicle.
I cannot believe that this issue comes up now when we still have not determined when Twinkies will be back on the market. See, just more proof that a free market system outperforms a government restricted system any day of the week. By the way, what day is it? The best argument for keeping it criminal is because Oregon decriminalized it and they are growing “medicinal” marijuana like crazy in California. On a recent business trip to L.A., a 6 year old called me “dude.” But I digress. If marijuana is decriminalized, I feel that it should be subject to heavy regulation. It should be controlled at least as well as your 16-ounce cola. We could use the tax revenues to fight the war on drugs (or not). How many drunks race up and down our highways while the potheads sit at home saying, "Long as I got munchies and cable, why go out?" Seeing as our politicians are already in the forefront of gambling (with our money) and prostitution (Yo' ex-governor), shouldn't drugs be controlled by those who know them best? I don't let people smoke cigarettes in my house. I won't let them smoke pot either. But, I really hate paying to catch them, punish them, house them and feed them.
Legalize it, then tax the daylights out of it. This is New York State, right?
—Lou Calarese, Applied Audio & Theatre Supply
Decriminalization and appropriate behavioral health treatment. This principle applies to all substances, e.g. cocaine, crack, etc. Limits must be set, individual assessment, treatment and, as required, incarceration.
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results
Especially as New York is looking for new sources of revenue, yes! The tax take could be well-planned-out to accommodate renewing the war on serious drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, and have a viable program (better than the alcohol regulation!) to keep the underage from getting and smoking it! That's the big caveat, since research has shown that marijuana use in young people can inhibit brain development. This stops at age 21!
—Hutch Hutchison, In T'Hutch Ltd.
We can use our tax dollars to address much bigger problems. Education! Crime! Rebuilding roads and bridges. Control how much can purchase at one time and tax it! This should take the cash flow away from major crime gangs
—Harold H. Ley, Stoney Point Business Consulting
The "war on drugs" is a billion dollar boondoggle, much like Prohibition in the ‘20s that makes tons of money for suppliers and makes gangsters very wealthy, but does nothing to address drug and alcohol addiction.
That's a yes/no answer for me. Yes, legalize marijuana but give a "weight limit" for anyone in possession. This way, it prevents people from carrying a large amount legally. I Googled photos of one ounce of pot, the amount is about the size of a stuffed zip-loc bag. In my opinion, that's a lot for one person to carry. A much smaller amount would be acceptable. (Oh, by the way, I'm not a pot smoker for the record.)
—Rich Calabrese Jr.
Like all other proposals to do with government all items get convoluted but in the end it’s about the money. Do I agree that for individuals under a doctor’s orders that "medical marijuana” should be allowed. Yes just like any other script that is required to help that person medically. These other states that have allowed legalization are still fighting as New York is with DWI. Really? Do we something else to deal with where enforcement does not even have a test for this type of influence with a blood test which will have all the Civil Liberty Unions up in arms. We worry about gun violence and the deaths caused by firearms, let’s take a look at traffic deaths still caused by DWI and now let’s add this to the equation—all for MONEY. I have a better idea. Our New York State government should get their respective heads out of their behinds, allow the capital market to create jobs by less tax, less government, less restrictions. All staffs at the government level should be cut in half so the people we elect do the work not the five layers of "staffers" and their respective staff sucking the tax dollar of those of us who can still work. I am sick to death about this State and the direction it and the country are heading. Do what is right for a change Albany—90 percent of you should be fired starting with the Cuomo (who I use to support).
—David Topian, Westminster Real Estate Advisors
Not only should pot be legal, it should be part of the daily regimen of our Albany politicians. We no longer would be able to succinctly blame stupidity and corruption for their decisions. We would have to consider that they may be stoned! They would get the benefit of doubt when making gun laws to punish taxpaying, law abiding citizens. When focusing on gay marriage instead of the cost of government; when continually, exorbitantly, illegally, unjustifiably, unnecessarily, and incompetently, raising taxes. When they keep chasing businesses and millionaires out of New York State. Well, we can just say they're stoned. It's much easier to accept, than to admit we're getting (censored). They should pass the bong to Bloomberg, as well. Makes you wonder how someone who (censored) fell into so much money. Proof that the American dream is alive. So, for our Albany politicians, we make pot legal. You know, like tax evasion, graft, double dipping and corruption. But for welfare people we make it illegal. I misspoke, we enforce that it's illegal. How about a clean pee test for my tax money? Then Andy could say that "wouldn't be fair"—and I could say "you must be stoned"!
So now we're back to John Denver and Rocky Mountain High? I'm not sure about the difference in legalizing and decriminalizing it.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
Yes, and it should be given away in middle schools with condoms and little airline bottles of Captain Morgan. And Brownies too; gotta’ have the Brownies.
All drugs should be legalized! They are plentifully available anyhow, because of the high profit margins. This “war on drugs” has been a disaster, and I am fed up with the violence that accompanies this illegal trade. I’m convinced that we’ll have fewer addicts once we decriminalize and deglamorize the usage of drugs. For one thing once people pay the “real price” not the highly inflated price for drugs, many addicts will disappear very quickly due to overdosing. I mean, that’s their choice. Today, these addicts are killings themselves slowly and innocent people suffer the violence and property theft that keeps this illegal business going. Finally, we have the very powerful and dangerous gangs that deal in this illegal trade. Let’s put them completely out of business. I mean how would they ever get FDA approval to verify purity for the drugs they sell? Without FDA approved, who would buy from them, when cheap “approved drugs” are available? An analogy would be “moonshine.” It’s a pretty small business with little demand and few people willing to take a chance on the homebrew.
—Jerry Lighthouse, C.P.M., CPIM Advanced Purchasing Technology, LLC
Marijuana is less dangerous than guns. It only kills the user. I am for legalizing it, all the other drugs, and prostitution! Just have an eye on it that all is nicely organized, registered, and pays taxes! The latter is crucial! Instead of having huge costs for law-enforcement by police to lawyers to judges to jails, there will be an income on top of savings. The whole thing won't cost much, since it can be done together with the gun licensing process. Oh yes, guns should also be taxed. This does not conflict with the constitution!
—Ingo H. Leubner
Marijuana is a health hazard. It has some very harmful chemicals which cause brain damage, lethargy and learning disabilities especially for teenagers and young adults. Many of us know individuals who became addicts on harder drugs by first using marijuana as a gateway drug. Marijuana smoke also is more harmful than cigarette smoke and is a cause of lung cancer, related pulmonary illnesses, etc. Marijuana advocates in government are hypocrites in supporting this harmful illegal drug when at the same time they try to outlaw transfats, 16-ounce soda pop, etc. In summary, my advice is to play it safe and stick with one or two legal ice cold beers!
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.
4/12/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.