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City of Buffalo considering universal basic income program, funded by marijuana tax

In the meantime, there are concerns by some in law enforcement officials that the marijuana law will make it tougher to get illegal guns off the streets.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It is now officially, official: New York state has become the 16th state to legalize recreational marijuana.

This now impacts numerous parts of the state’s marijuana laws and puts in motion a system to regulate and tax the drug. There are also concerns about the final draft of the bill that was approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

"What they did, though, was they eliminated the ability to use the smell of marijuana, or smoking marijuana possessing marijuana, which is legal now for a probable cause search of a car, and that is extremely problematic," Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said.

While many have celebrated the new marijuana law as a big victory, Flynn has some deep concerns, especially how the law will play out in areas of high crime.

"I can't tell you how many illegal weapons that we confiscate out of vehicles especially in the City of Buffalo," Flynn said.

He also has concerns about drivers getting behind the wheel after ingesting odorless forms of marijuana.

"If I can't identify what the substance is, I cannot prosecute that," Flynn said.

The district attorney and advocates for safe driving want to see this language put into the law prohibiting "any substance or combination of substances that impair, to any extent, physical or mental abilities."

"Hopefully we do see language and if for some reason there was not any language regarding to that we still make sure and advocate for the fact that there needs to be changes made," said Isai Fuentes, the program manager of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

With revenue from marijuana sales, the City of Buffalo is eyeing long-term plans of possibly implementing a universal basic income program.

"We'd be looking at potentially providing some income checks to low-income residents in the City of Buffalo, potentially looking at certain zip codes that have been impacted," Brown said. "It's just an idea that we're kicking around. We have made no permanent determination about that." 

There are other models nationally of universal basic income having some success.

"At some point, we will submit some ideas that we have for the community to consider," Brown said.

The plan would need Common Council approval.

"We have a number of people doing research now we’re looking at plans and proposals in other cities across the country," Brown said.

Mayor Brown says Buffalo has no plans on opting out of allowing marijuana retail stores in the city.

On roadway safety, the Governor's Office says the state Health Department will do a study researching ways to detect marijuana-impaired driving.

Flynn says he supports aspects of the marijuana law that include keeping driving while impaired by marijuana a misdemeanor.


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