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Another Voice: Facts don't favor legalizing cannabis for recreational use

By Joshua Vacanti

Despite what “Big Marijuana" and its supporters would like consumers to believe, when given an accurate image of marijuana policies available, most New Yorkers do not support full recreational legalization. A recent study conducted by Emerson College found that only 27 percent of New Yorkers support full legalization when biases are removed from polling options.

More than half of respondents supported legalized medical cannabis, repealed decriminalization or were unsure of their stance. This study also found that the majority of citizens do not want marijuana advertising or marijuana storefronts added to their communities.

New York’s proposed marijuana legalization, once seen as a sure thing, fell off of the state budget recently as a number of senators had “serious problems” with aspects of the legislation. Many senators, such as Chris Jacobs, feel that legalization would come as a detriment to the public’s health.

Current research supports that marijuana can have negative effects on a user’s health and well-being. This is especially true for the adolescent brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen marijuana use can be linked to harmful, long-lasting consequences during crucial stages of brain development.

A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found an abnormal volume change in areas of the brain that control emotions, memory and learning in teens (age 14) who reported using marijuana just once or twice.

Looking to states that have legalized marijuana, the outcome has been far less glamorous than advertised. In Colorado, crime has increased 35 percent, while drugged driving incidents involving marijuana use has increased 88 percent since legalization. Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana NY, recently acknowledged that no legalized state has seen a reduction in prison populations, and that currently only 3 percent of the prisoners in the U.S. are individuals held on marijuana-related offenses. He also points out that most of these charges are trafficking-based. While decriminalization and addressing stigma surrounding law enforcement is a necessity, these issues do not require full recreational legalization.

On the topic of potential profit gained from marijuana, a recent study released by Colorado’s Centennial Institute found that for every dollar made in revenue from marijuana tax, Coloradoans spent $4.50 to mitigate the impacts of marijuana legalization.

We have spent billions of dollars combating the destruction caused by “Big Tobacco,” and with the proper time and research, the same does not have to be said for marijuana.

Joshua Vacanti is an educator for the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

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