By Demi Guo
As New York state moves to legalize recreational marijuana, people expressed concern at a meeting at the Manhasset Public Library over how legalization would affect them and local youths.
On Monday, the library hosted Dr. Jeff Reynolds, a member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Adult Marijuana Working Task Force, to discuss the effects of possible legalization.
“The national landscape,” he said, “is that virtually every state is looking at or doing legalization, and it’s having a huge impact on what New York state does.”
Nonmedical marijuana is now legal in 10 states, with lawmakers and the industry both pushing for more.
The market, Reynolds said, has big money behind it, and according to a Pew Research survey, 62 percent of Americans support it. A major concern amongst attendees, however, was how it would affect Long Island, which already grapples with an opioid crisis.
“Ultimately, the problem is keeping it away from the kids,” said Tom Manis, a retired doctor in the area. He recounted seeing patients suffering, often fatally, from opioid abuse over the years. State surveys show that addiction affects young adults in their 20s, which was a cause for concern among parents of adolescents.
There were, Reynolds said, “spirited conversations in the work group” about what the legal age of access should be. Regardless of these legal limits, he and attendees agreed, adolescents and older people would get marijuana on the black market. Limits like age and the question of how law enforcement would handle illegal possession, he said, are still being discussed.
This all comes after a backlash against an effort by Medmen, a cannabis company, to move its medical marijuana dispensary from Lake Success to Northern Boulevard in Manhasset. Last month the company halted the effort.
While there was a consensus on the benefits of medical marijuana, Reynolds pointed out that research was limited.
“I do think medical marijuana undoubtedly has a place on Long Island,” he said, “and for some conditions, there’s really compelling data.”
However, he added that data for its effect on psychological conditions, such as treating anxiety or PTSD, is meager due to federal restrictions. Treating symptoms temporarily, he said, doesn’t mean treating foundational causes.
“I am opposed to this legislation,” said Gabriella Morizio, a mother of three in the audience.
She conceded that there may be medical benefits, but she reflected on a concern among attending parents that legalization of recreational use would change the local landscape.
“No one has a problem with medical marijuana,” Manis said, “but stores send the wrong message.”