New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will be reintroduced by Senator Krueger during the next legislative session, which begins in January.
The bill would tax all marijuana sales and limit legal possession to two ounces. Senator Krueger talked with Metro about why the time has to come to legalize marijuana in New York.
Where does your motivation for this bill come from?
"The fact is we have spent decades attempting to do prohibition and on a war of drugs that has actually done nothing and is particularly ruining the lives of young people of color and having them go into the criminal justice system and come out with the kind of citations that limit their access to financial aid for college and exposes them to a criminal justice system that frankly I do not believe they should have been exposed to in the first place, for simply using a drug that is proved to be less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco"
How hopeful do you feel about the passing of this bill, especially given the passage of medical marijuana in New York?
"I think we're on the cutting edge of major changes in policy towards marijuana use throughout the county. We have now legalized medical marijuana but we're also the 24th or 25th state to do so. Several places are looking to pass tax regulation--District of Columbia, Washington D.C.-- the federal government is making it clear that they are evaluating their position. It is important to have this dialogue in every sate of the country and as legislators to push the envelope of proposed legislation so that it can be implemented and it can lead to rational policies.“
You introduced a similar bill last session, has this or will this one be amended and how so?
“I haven't put amendments on it yet. There are a number of technical changes that will happen. We're watching what has worked in Colorado and Washington State. One lesson, for example, from Colorado is the requirement to label marijuana. Some marijuana used wasn't correctly labeled in Colorado so you ended up with stories that some one was selling chocolate chip cookies with six times the dose. So labeling must be factually correct and clear.“
Why do you think this bill is necessary for New York?
“If you look at the data from New York City over the last several years, as low as 15,000 to 20,000 people have been arrested by police force for some low level possession. It is not only doing harm to young people but it's using up our police and court resources who are not chasing the bad guys. I would much rather prefer to use our police and court resources to go after our criminals who are actually doing harm to our city.
I have worked with retired DEA enforcers, judges, and narcotic officers from the NYPD who all tell me that because of our antiquated marijuana laws they wasted a huge amount of their careers not focusing on where we needed their help.
It is a win-win to decriminalize marijuana and regulate it and tax it. And there are a few things I also want to prevent. I want to keep it way from kids. I don’t support kids using it. And I don’t use it and I don’t encourage people to use it, just like I don't support alcohol or cigarette use but controlling that hasn’t worked either.”