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Editorial: The DA cracks down on driving while high

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn is taking a practical stand. The use of small amounts of marijuana is being decriminalized in New York State, and he sees no reason to prosecute people between now and when the law takes effect at the end of this month. But driving under the influence of marijuana still deserves tough prosecution.

On the first part – decriminalization – Flynn recently said anyone who possesses 2 ounces or less of marijuana in Erie County would be charged with a violation and not a misdemeanor. Anyone who wants to have a low-level conviction sealed should make a motion in court and he will sign off on it.

On the second part – driving under the influence – Flynn has appropriately taken a hard line. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive down the highway after having chugged a bottle of beer. The same goes for marijuana.

Two recent cases show Flynn’s tough line. On March 26, Edward Harris was speeding on Oakridge Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda when prosecutors say he crossed into a parking lot and crashed into the Ken-Ton Presbyterian Village apartments, a senior apartment complex.

Lida Alminate, 94, was watching TV in her apartment when the impact caused the ceiling to cave in. She was a mother of seven, grandmother of nine, great-grandmother of two, and healthy and active. She died four days later in Erie County Medical Center. Harris is charged with murder in the second degree and vehicular manslaughter.

In the second case, Adrienne Early, 47, of Buffalo, was standing at a bus stop at Genesee Street and Fillmore Avenue when Carlos Velez of Green Court crashed into a second car, which then hit Early. Early died at the scene.

Velez was extradited from Florida and charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter.

Flynn’s hard line on those driving under the influence is appropriate – and not at all at odds with his common sense use of prosecutorial discretion on decriminalization.

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