BUFFALO, N.Y. - Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra is part of a group calling for recreational marijuana use to be legal in New York State.
Giambra spoke at a news conference on Tuesday morning in Buffalo, organized by NY Grows. The website for the organization includes the slogan "investing in our New York State's infrastructure is more important than arresting marijuana users."
Giambra is part of a seven member group that comprise NY Grows.
It's important to note the group headed by the former county executive, is not advocating the "use" of marijuana.
"There's not a single pot leaf on our website," said Maximilian Eyle, who manages online media and promotions for the group.
Moreover, his father, Nicolas Eyle, who serves as a drug policy advisor, concedes smoking marijuana isn't a healthy choice.
"Inhaling dead plant matter whether it's tobacco or marijuana is probably not good for you," the elder Eyle said.
However, while not promoting its use, NY Grows advocates decriminalizing pot for many reasons you've heard before.
These include but are not limited to being able to regulate the purity of it, and better control of who is able to buy it based on age, much like cigarettes and alcohol.
"We don't know how marijuana's being grown or if chemicals are being sprayed on it. And nobody's checking for ID. If a young kid wants to buy it, the drug dealers don't care how old he is," Maximilian Eyle said.
In theory, the group contends legalization would eliminate much of the ancillary violent crime associated with a currently illicit trade , while generating millions of in taxes, and saving millions more in court and incarceration costs because people would no longer be sent to jail for doing something that would be "legal".
"Prohibition is not an effective policy...it's never worked," said Giambra.
There are now 8 states where the recreational use of marijuana is legal.
In the first year of legalization in Colorado, the state collected $70 million in marijuana taxes, nearly double what it collected for alcohol . While Washington has raked in $250 million (from sales of nearly $1 Billion) in the two years since recreational marijuana has become legal in that state.
NY Grows estimates the tax revenue in New York, a larger state, would be $600 a year, while the state would save another billion dollars in annually in criminal justice costs.
"We don't get any of those benefits by keeping the status quo," Maximilian Eyle said.
"All we're trying to do here is present as much education and as much information as possible," said Giambra. "In that way, when a decision is made, it will be a learned decision."
Currently, medical marijuana is legal in New York State.