Rochester area reacts to Cuomo's legal pot proposal |

Rochester area reacts to Cuomo's legal pot proposal

Charles Molineaux
Updated: February 16, 2021 11:12 PM
Created: February 16, 2021 11:05 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The latest proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to legalize recreational marijuana includes getting it delivered.

On Tuesday, the Governor’s Office released a series of new amendments to its plan for a comprehensive adult-use cannabis program. 

The proposal brought familiar alarms from longtime critics. 

"It's a gateway. It's a beginning. It's a first step in the wrong direction,” warned recovering addict Randy Cimino, now the president of the rehab group Gates to Recovery.

Drawing from his own experience, Cimino kept up his opposition to recreational marijuana legalization, even as he acknowledges Gov. Cuomo's latest push to make it legal will likely succeed, paving the way for what could be $350 million a year in tax revenue for the state.

“Would it be a good income for the state?” he asked. “Probably. Do I think the state should make money off other peoples hardships? I don’t. If you think that by using marijuana, or any other drug… They call it ‘recreational use’ but you get addicted to marijuana, just like you do anything else.”

The governor's latest proposal includes one big change from his previous ones, licenses for marijuana delivery, which advocates say could offer more people a way into the pot business.

It also pledges $100 million of the state's proceeds would be spent on social programs in areas that have historically seen the most drug crime and drug arrests, in what the administration calls “Social Equity Funding.”

"We feel that is nowhere near enough money,” declared Mary Kruger, leader of the marijuana legalization group Roc NORML.

Longtime legalization advocates are demanding half of all the tax money legal pot brings in go to communities with drug crime histories.

"Intentionally invest in those communities to build them up instead of what we have done in the past and that's break them down,” Kruger said.

Advocates also say penalties for selling pot illegally, like to minors, would still be too tough and they don't like that the proposal wouldn't let users grow it themselves.  

While they applauded the addition of provisions to allow for delivery, they also called for a provision to license locations for people to consume marijuana.

Law enforcement leaders say opening the doors to legal marijuana might supercharge the market in illegal marijuana, and bring more crime. 

"It could have just the opposite effect on some of those same neighborhood as trying to help,” warned James VanBrederode, Gates Police Chief and president of the Monroe County Police Chiefs Association, “because the open air drug market increases because ‘My marijuana is cheaper than going to the state’s marijuana dispensary.’"

"If the state is going to over regulate and overtax, then there may be some concerns,” Kruger said. “But so long as they set up this program in a way that makes cannabis affordable and accessible, that really shouldn't be a concern. New York is not California. "

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