New York Police Officers Stepping Up Opposition to Marijuana Legalization

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has changed his tune, moving from a stance against marijuana legalization to a pledge to take action to do so in the first 100 days of his new term. Meanwhile, the law enforcement officers in his state have taken to the press to show just how opposed they are to the idea.

Numerous news conferences were held Feb. 7 across the state, attended by various high-ranking officials in police departments throughout New York. The Oneida County Sheriff, Robert Maciol, held a press conference in Albany in his other titled position — that of President of the New York State Sheriff’s Association. Meanwhile, his undersheriff, Joseph Lisi, spearheaded the press conference in Oneida County.

During the conferences, law enforcement officials reiterated the potential health and safety concerns arising as talks strengthen in support of legalization of recreational marijuana use. Law enforcement officials believe the move to legalize is a bad one, and the New York State Sheriff’s Association recently held a vote that unanimously opposed the legislation. The group is notedly bipartisan and says that politics are not a motive in their vote.

The New York Department of Health released a report in favour of legalization in 2018. That, coupled with Gov. Cuomo’s about-face, has advocates and legislators in favour of legalization hopeful that 2019 will be a productive year for the move. However, with such strong opposition from law enforcement, that legislation may not be passed as quickly as some hope.

Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty, who spoke at a news conference in Geneseo, noted that public safety is the primary concern. However, he also mentioned the concerns about having appropriately trained officers who can handle tests for impaired drivers, since there are currently no tests like the breathalyzer to conclusively provide proof that a driver is impaired by marijuana.

Sheriff Dougherty explained that officers from his department have been sent to Florida for training to adequately handle traffic stops, but that training is time-consuming and costs the department money and manpower. Therefore, if legalization occurs quickly, law enforcement in the state may not be prepared to handle the influx of drivers, putting NY residents at greater risk.

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