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Letter: State policymakers must take care on pot issue

Physicians across the state of New York share the concerns of county public health officials with regard to the New York Legislative proposals to legalize recreational marijuana use (“Key questions remain in New York’s road to legal marijuana” Dec. 26 Buffalo News).

In public forums throughout the fall across New York State, local physician leaders stated their support for marijuana decriminalization, but opposition to outright legalization. These concerns stem from concerning data from other jurisdictions which have legalized recreational marijuana use where there have been increased impaired driving arrests and higher marijuana use among teenagers compared to non-legalization states.

If New York is to go forward with legalization, it is imperative there be strong enforcement efforts to prohibit and prevent use by those under 25, as well as significant funds allocated for a public educational campaign about the risks of use of recreational marijuana. There must also be meaningful funding to support research into the public health effects of recreational marijuana use.

While we believe policy makers will include measures to limit underage use, physicians remain very concerned about the mixed message that will be sent to youth perceiving that legalization of the drug means that it is safe to use. In particular we are concerned that the marijuana industry will undertake underage marketing efforts similar to those undertaken by the tobacco and alcohol industries.

We agree that concerns that marijuana laws have been fraught with bias and arbitrary enforcement. That must change. However, New York policymakers must be extremely careful as they seek to make a clearly addictive substance available for recreational consumption.

Physicians are committed to working with the legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to strike the correct balance.

Tom Madejski, MD

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