Gov. Cuomo proposes decriminalization of marijuana

NEW YORK – Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday called for the state to decriminalize marijuana possession.

In his proposal, Cuomo wrote: “The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York state, but data consistently shows that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety.”

Steve Chassman, LCSW, CASAC (Email), with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, says he agrees incarceration isn’t the answer for dealing with marijuana users. But he also says the governor’s plan shouldn’t end with lessening the penalties for possession.

“There should be a step two to this,” he says. “What are we doing around community education and prevention around marijuana? Are there moneys going to be allotted for school-based education around the dangers of marijuana?”

Under current state law, most people caught with small amounts of marijuana for the first time receive a fine similar to a parking ticket. Gov. Cuomo’s plan would change that by completely decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug.

The governor’s proposal faces a big hurdle in the Republican-controlled state Senate. One state senator has already called the governor’s plan a “bad idea,” because he says marijuana is a gateway drug.

Eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational use of marijuana.

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