Pubdate: Tue, 16 Jun 2009
Source: AM New York (NY)
Copyright: 2009 AM New York
Author: Jason Fink
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Are the pungent winds of change wafting into New York, carrying a new
momentum for loosening marijuana laws?

"Support has increased substantially," said Gabriel Sayegh, a New York
director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which is pushing for reform of
pot laws. "The time for broader discussion of these issues is finally

For Kenia Rodriguez, 21, of Brooklyn, the answer is

"People do it regardless, so the government might as well" legalize
it, she said.

New York - many legalization advocates say these are heady days. In
fact, a national poll shows close to half of adult Americans are open
to legalizing pot altogether.

Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) co-authored a bill
that would reduce federal penalties for possession. And with a drug
war raging in Mexico, state budgets in crisis and a president who
said, "Yes - I inhaled" arguments to legalize the drug are gaining

In New York, the assembly has twice passed bills to legalize the drug
for medicinal purposes and one is currently pending in both chambers,
though the chaos in the senate may imperil its chances this year.

"There is overwhelming public support for medical marijuana," said
Assemb. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), a co-sponsor of the current
bill and author of the 1977 law that decriminalized possession of less
than 25 grams. "I think it is long overdue for New York law to catch
up with the people and with medical science."

A spokesman for Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, the
head of the state's DA association, is "open to discussion" on the
medical marijuana bill co-sponsored by state Sen. Diane Savino
(D-Staten Island).

Both Savino and Gottfried also said they are open to dropping
restrictions against recreational marijuana use, although Gottfried
said such legalization is not now on the agenda in New York.

According to estimates by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron,
legalization of marijuana could save the country at least $7.7 billion
in law enforcement costs and generate more than $6 billion in revenue
if it were taxed like cigarettes and alcohol.

Of course, not everyone is in favor.

"We think it's the wrong message to send our youth," said Russell
Laine, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Drug Enforcement Administration remains opposed, saying in one
document that it would "create dependency and treatment issues, and
open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent
behavior, and drugged drivers."

Nicole Wilson, 20, of Brooklyn, had her own reasons for opposing

"It shouldn't be legal because it makes people do stupid things," she
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