Colorado and Washington Legalize Marijuana: What about NY?

7:04 PM, Nov 8, 2012   |    comments
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Buffalo, NY- Voters didn't just decide on our elected officials last night, in Colorado and Washington they also voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Some believe those victories mean the beginning of the end to marijuana prohibition in this country. But what about New York State specifically?

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) is a sponsor of a bill in Albany to legalize the use of marijuana for patients who need it for medical reasons. The Democrat-controlled Assembly has even passed it twice in the past five years.

"If their doctors agree with the patient, I don't think government should stand in the way of them getting what they need to live a healthier quality of life," said Peoples-Stokes.

The Republican-led Senate, though, hasn't passed medical-marijuana legislation. Democratic State Senator Diane Savino from Staten Island is hoping to introduce it again and her spokesman told Two On Your Side by phone, that Senator Savino is "cautiously optimistic" that the issue will get a jumpstart now that Colorado and Washington have voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

But the bill's approval here needs the governor's signature, too, and he said last year he didn't have a "final position" on the issue.

As for recreational-use of pot in New York, a bill hasn't even been drafted.

"I don't think we're there yet as a state. I don't think we're there yet as a community. And I think it makes some sense like the 16 states have already done in this country to move forward to allow people to have access to it for medical purposes," said Peoples-Stokes.

Colorado and Washington legalized it with a referendum, or a vote by the people. Here in New York, it's a decision made only by lawmakers, and they would have to pass a law to approve a referendum

Reporter: What do you think the people would say if they could vote on [the recreational use of marijuana]?

Crystal Peoples-Stokes: I think the people of the state of New York who are in many cases more conservative than most people think even though we're a democratic state would probably say no.

Furthermore, federal law prohibits the use of marijuana - medicinally or recreationally - throughout the country. The issue, though. is whether the feds are able to effectively enforce it in states that voted for it

A Quinnipiac University poll from 2010 found that 71% of New York voters-including 55% of registered Republicans-support doctor prescribed medical marijuana.

Lawmakers begin their session in Albany in January, and it's unclear if or when they'll discuss legalizing medical marijuana.

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