Residents express displeasure with marijuana legalization

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The Nassau County Executive and Legislative Building is seen in Mineola. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

A majority of Nassau County residents who attended a public safety forum at the Nassau County Legislature last week expressed displeasure over the potential state legalization of marijuana.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced his support of state legalization which has been echoed by a number of Democratic state senators and assembly members.

A number of towns and villages in Nassau County have discussed or implemented measures that would ban the sale of recreational marijuana in their jurisdictions.

During the Feb. 6  forum, held by the Health and Social Services Committee of the county Legislature, residents asked for Nassau to opt out of the legalization, which the current bill that is in front of the senate finance committee would allow for counties and cities with a population higher than 100,000.

Christoper Cartier, assistant principal of Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, discussed the countrywide issue of teen vaping, which he believes teenagers would switch from nicotine use to marijuana use if marijuana were to be legalized.

“This county has an obligation to protect its citizens,” he said. “This county has an obligation to ensure its roads are safe.”

Kathleen Spatz of South Hempstead said based on her personal experience with addiction in her family, she believes that marijuana leads to further drug use.

“I’m shaking because it just upsets me that this is happening in the state of New York,” she said.

Douglas Green, legislative director and a member of the board of directors for Empire State NORML, a pro-marijuana non-profit that advocates for the reform of marijuana laws,  had a message for those who thought they could stop the legalization of marijuana in New York.

“You lost,” he said.

He cited a January poll from Quinnipiac University that found 59 percent of New York State voters were supporters of the legalization of marijuana. He said  county officials should remember that when they are up for re-election.

Nassau County Legis. James Kennedy (R-Massapequa) asked Nassau County Attorney Jared Kasschau in a question-and-answer period if the county were to opt out of legalization, would that still mean anyone in Nassau could still smoke marijuana.

Kasschau said that was true, but the person would have to be over 21 and could not use it in a public place, which would include parks and hotels among other places.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said legalized marijuana is a challenge he has never faced in his 35 years in law enforcement.

“We’re professionals and we don’t get to choose what side of the picket line we stand,” he said. “We have to stand on the side of the law.”

To prepare for the effects of legalization on law enforcement, he co-chairs a committee with Nassau County Legis. Joshua Lafazan (D-Glen Head) with the mission to “educate and inform the residents of Nassau County about the potential impacts associated with the legalization of marijuana in the state of New York.”

On Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., the committee was scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in the Town of North Hempstead and then another on March 5 in the Town of Hempstead.

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