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Partners In Safety Voices Opinion on Recreational Marijuana at Local Forum (Recordonline.com)

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Newburgh forum explores possible legal pot in NY – News – recordonline.com – Middletown, NY

By Leonard Sparks

Sep 28 at 10:40 PM

Ophra Wolfe gave reasons why the state should legalize it.

Ursula Clancy came to criticize it.

Supporters and opponents of legalizing marijuana filled a room at SUNY Orange’s City of Newburgh campus on Monday to air their views on a possible state proposal to allow adults 21 and over to possess the much-demonized and much-loved drug.

A study authorized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and released in July concluded that legalizing marijuana would reap health, social and economic benefits, including billions of dollars in tax revenue.

Newburgh is one of more than a dozen municipalities hosting “listening sessions” on marijuana decriminalization.

A bill is expected to be put before the state Senate and Assembly when they begin a new Legislature session in January.

Division characterized the Newburgh forum, with more than 100 attendees including concerned parents, longtime smokers, farmers, and health and education professionals.

Clancy, a nurse who is president of a Middletown-based occupational safety business, said that legalizing marijuana will expand its availability to youth, helping them be “dumber and not smarter.”

Wolfe, a City of Newburgh resident, said she has smoked marijuana since age 16 and still graduated in the top three percent of her class at the University of California at Berkeley.

“People aren’t going to stop using marijuana,” she said. “People have been using marijuana for thousands of years, and that’s going to continue.”

In 2014 New York became one of what is now 29 states and the District of Columbia that allows doctors to prescribe cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana, for pain, nausea and other health problems.

Now the state is considering joining D.C. and nine states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

The state study concluded that benefits from legalizing the drug would include a reduction in deaths from the addictive opioids behind a record number of overdoses, and in the disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos arrested for possession.

An overview of research showed “little evidence” of an increase in use by youth and little or no increase in adult use, according to the study.

Opponents highlighted parts of the study devoted to health risks.

The study found an association with impaired attention, learning and memory; lung problems related to smoking the drug; and evidence that legalization could increase the number of marijuana-related traffic accidents.

Decriminalization would “threaten the health and well-being” of youth, said Stacy Rein, chairwoman of the Ulster County Substance Abuse Prevention Board.

“Who will the billboards and commercials and social media prompts be targeting?” she said. “Who will be attracted to marijuana lollipops and marijuana cookies and marijuana gummy bears?”

Legalizing marijuana would lead to reduction in the costs of policing and prosecuting marijuana laws, and generate between $248 million and $678 million in tax revenue for the state and local governments, depending on the price per ounce and the tax rate, according to the study.

Along with allowing recreational use, the study said, legislation decriminalizing marijuana could also address the criminal records of people with marijuana convictions.

Saby Montoya, a City of Newburgh resident and veteran who served in Iraq, said that she and other veterans have used marijuana to help them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I was, at one point, suicidal – and marijuana helped me through that,” she said.

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