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Police chiefs’ organization opposes legal pot

LATHAM, NY — Many observers of the New York State political scene are convinced that the legislature will adopt a measure this year making the use of recreational marijuana legal, and that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign it.

But not everyone is jumping on the legalization band wagon. The president and CEO of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police (NYSAPC) issued a press release January 21 expressing opposition to legalization.

John Aresta, president of NYSAPC and chief of the Malverne Police Department, says not enough research has been done on the matter. He quoted the New England Journal of Medicine, which says, “The epidemiological and preclinical data suggests that the use of marijuana in adolescence could influence multiple addictive behaviors in adulthood.” Aresta said that, with the state currently battling an opioid epidemic, “it would be counterintuitive to condone the use of marijuana.”

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) conducted a study of the probable impact of marijuana, which was delivered to Gov. Cuomo in July 2018. That study found that “the positive impacts of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative impacts, and that areas that may be a cause for concern can be mitigated with regulation and proper use of public education that is tailored to address key populations.”

Specifically regarding opioid use, a summary of the study says, “Regulating marijuana can reduce opioid use (legal and illegal). Medical marijuana has added another option for pain relief, which may reduce initial prescribing of opioids and assist individuals who currently use opioids to reduce or stop use. Legalization may ease access to marijuana for pain. Marijuana is an effective treatment for pain, greatly reduces the chance of dependence, and eliminates the risk of fatal overdose compared to opioid-based medications.”

In a press release, Aresta also expressed concern over enforcing drugged-driving laws. “The detection of impairment by drugs on the roadside must be performed by a certified Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), which is a law enforcement officer that has undergone at least two weeks of classroom training and an additional one week of practical field training,” he said. “It is anticipated that law enforcement would have to add approximately 650 new Drug Recognition Experts to handle the necessity of the increase in suspected impaired drivers.”

In his State of the State speech on January 15, Cuomo unveiled his proposed plan for legalizing recreational marijuana, and it included increasing the number of DREs in the state. He also called for an increase in research on roadside-testing equipment, such as breathalyzers, that would measure the amount of marijuana in a person’s body.


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