Central New Yorkers are watching closely as the state appears to be on a path that could legalize marijuana for recreational use. After years of hesitation, Governor Cuomo is making it a priority as he enters his third term.
"It's a false choice to legalize marijuana or not because we're there already. It's legal in Massachusetts. It is going to be legal in New Jersey."
Cuomo says New Yorkers will simply go to those states if New York doesn’t follow suit. And that’s the thinking that bothers Larry Carp. The retired Syracuse University and Cornell faculty member formed an organization called “Parents against legalizing Marijuana.”
"The studies show there is danger with this...enough danger that people should institute a stop in thier mind, a pause, saying 'why are we rushing headlong into doing this?'"
Carp says the danger…and his concern, are founded largely in science, along with a touch of morality. He says smoking cannabis releases very small amounts of hydrogen cyanide, the same toxins found in tobacco. Carp says short-term use doesn’t kill anyone, but over time, it could.
"Have they done research on it? Hard to tell. If you have the same toxins, which one is the marijuana and which one is the tobacco? If you have a resipiratory problem, or if you're a kid or pregnant woman, how much hydrogen cyanide can you take before it affects you very negatively?"
Carp fears legalization will make it easier for youth to access marijuana, probably from adults who buy it. He also worries it could be a slippery slope to legalizing harder drugs.
'OBSCENE AMOUNTS OF MONEY'
Carp is asking lawmakers and the governor not to rush into such an important decision.
"We really need to wait, have more scientific evidence, and then put it to the public. Don't give us a lot of propaganda, which has all kinds of falsities."
Instead, Carp wants people to inform themselves using science.
"A lot of people's opinions are based upon the propaganda from people who really want this legalized. And others have a different idea of what legalization means."
Governor Cuomo was skeptical of legalization for years until just recently. He says it’s a false choice because it’s already legal in Massachusetts and will soon be in New Jersey. Cuomo says New York will craft its legislation carefully, while also considering neighboring states.
"How old, how many stores, how much marijuana do you sell to a person, what are the tax revenues."
The commercialization of marijuana sales is another one of Larry Carp’s concerns.
"That's all they talk about: 'The revenue. The money we're going to make! It's so fantastic if we do this...obscene amounts of money.' Unfortunately a lot of the lawmakers are religious in the sense they're looking for the almighty dollar. That's too bad," Carp said. "I'm hoping they start looking for a little more morality. We're in the state right now of our country where we're trying to make a decision: Is being amoral better if we can make some money off of it? Or, do we take the higher ground?"
Carp says it’s wrong to make money selling recreational marijuana, which he fears will lead to a moral and health crisis. Governor Cuomo has made legalization a priority for the first 100 days of his third term. A new democratic majority in the senate could mean one less hurdle for passage.