Local officials and community members weigh in on legalizing recreational pot


    In his State of the State Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo laid out his agenda, which includes legalizing recreational marijuana.

    Monroe County, N.Y. (WHAM) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo is aiming to accomplish a lot in the first 100 days of his third term. In his State of the State Tuesday, he laid out his agenda, which includes legalizing recreational marijuana.

    Under his proposal, no one under 21 years old would be allowed to buy pot, and retail sales of the drug would be taxed 20 percent.

    The plan would also have an opt-out clause for counties and cities to ban the sale of marijuana in communities.

    During his address Tuesday, the governor said New York State could take in an estimated $300 million in tax revenue each year from the sale of recreational pot. Gov. Cuomo wants to tax marijuana at the growing and wholesale levels.

    Tuesday, Rochester's Mayor Lovely Warren released a statement saying the city supports the legalization of marijuana and does not intend to "opt out."

    “We will support the Governor and Legislature’s efforts to ensure that the benefits of marijuana legalization reach our City and poorer communities. Therefore, we do not intend to opt out. In addition, we will support sensible regulations to deny access to children,” said Mayor Warren.

    Penfield Town Supervisor Tony LaFountain said the proposal is a discussion he plans on having with his colleagues once more details are released.

    “This has been something that, at a very high level, our town board has discussed, and will be something we will certainly have to vet out,” said Supervisor LaFountain. “Because this is so new and it hasn’t totally been flushed out yet, we will want to work together with not only our board, our colleagues and other communities, but the county health director and information he might have, to making the best and right decision for Penfield overall.”

    Some people 13WHAM spoke with said they would embrace the legalization.

    “It helps out well with anxiety, depression, chronic pain. It’s actually really soothing,” said Ashley Smith of Rochester.

    Recovering addict Dave Attridge, who has been sober for three years, has hesitations.

    “It’s a gateway drug. There’s no doubt about it,” said the Gates resident. “Through my addiction, it was the first drug I used, which led me on to other drugs and much harder drugs.”

    Gates Police Chief Jim VanBrederode also does not support legalizing the drug.

    “We anticipate that there will be greater crashes involving people that are high on marijuana, and some of those are going to be fatal, and that’s where we say this law is going to come with a cost, a human cost,” said Chief VanBrederode.

    Monroe County Health Dept. Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said if recreational marijuana becomes legal, it is something that will have to be managed.

    “Our concern is obviously the health of the public,” said Dr. Mendoza. “We don’t want to rush into something until we know a little more about what the unintended consequences might be.”

    A spokesman for Monroe County said they are still reviewing the exact language of the governor's proposal.

    13WHAM also reached out to surrounding counties to weigh in. Ontario County leaders said it is too early to comment on whether marijuana sales would be allowed there.

    Gov. Cuomo wants to pass the legislation before the state budget April 1. If it becomes law, New York would be the 11th state to legalize marijuana.

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