The Empire State Frets Over Massachusetts Legalization

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Photo by Dan Skye


Now that Massachusetts has legalized marijuana, law enforcement agencies in neighboring New York are in a full throttle panic over how they will continue to protect the safety and well being of the citizens when more pot starts being smuggled into the state.

Reports indicate that police departments all over New York have been burning the midnight oil at the drawing board trying to devise a way to crack the skulls of marijuana offenders ever since voters in the Bay State approved an initiative calling for the demise of prohibition. It seem that cops there are concerned that thousands of New York residents are going to take day trips into Massachusetts and transport cannabis products into forbidden territory.

“There will likely be some people who are either ignorant or just won’t care that our laws are different from theirs,” Peter Kehoe, director of the New York Sheriff’s Association, told the CNHI State Reporter. “We’re anticipating a problem in our border counties (Rensselaer and Columbia). I know it is going to be attractive to some of our residents to go over there and come back stoned.”

While marijuana will be technically legal for adults 21 and over in Massachusetts in the middle of December, the retail trade is not expected to be up and running until sometime in 2018. That means there is still plenty of time for cops across the Empire State to work up a solid plan of attack for preventing legal weed from being hauled into the state with magnificent fervor.

Let us not forget the lawsuit brought to the table of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014, calling for the Colorado cannabis industry to be shut down because officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma believed the flow of legal weed into their prohibitionary jurisdictions was draining law-enforcement resources. Fortunately, the nation’s highest court essentially told the two cry-baby states to go fuck themselves, dismissing the case earlier this year, without giving so much as an explanation for the decision.

But the one important detail we took away from that epic legal Battle Between the States is that the marijuana being grown and sold in legal states is without a doubt finding its way into areas where legalization has yet to be embraced. Of course, this is mostly happening because of the inconsistency we have with respect to the pot laws in this country.

Marijuana is now totally legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, while the federal government still considers the herb one of the most dangerous substances in the world. In addition, the Obama Administration has taken a “hand off” approach to legal states, while federal lawmakers still find it necessary to propose temporary amendments to provide the cannabis industry from assult by the anti-pot DEA.

And we have received little guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court because the justices do not care enough about the issue to explain their reasons for not entertaining a lawsuit calling for the Colorado cannabis industry to be burned to the ground. It is madhouse of confusion, borderline schizophrenic, at times, that is not likely to become much clearer until Congress finally repeals prohibition, once and for all, and establishes some kind of nationwide policy, such as the one we have all come to know in relation to alcohol.

Some New York lawmakers believe this is the reason it has become necessary for them to get serious about passing a measure in the 2017 session that follows in the footsteps of Massachusetts. But the New York General Assembly has not exactly been a pillar of support with respect to the concept of marijuana legalization, which Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, chairman of the Health Committee, worries will make it extremely unlikely for a bill calling for a taxed and regulated pot market to go the distance next year.

But drug-policy reform advocates say they feel at least somewhat confident that legalization in Massachusetts will force New York to start considering a similar stance.

“It forces electeds to consider certain marijuana-related policies that they could have just avoided for awhile,” Chris Alexander, policy coordinator for New York office of the Drug Policy Alliance, told WGRZ.

Unfortunately, the Republicans still control the State Legislature—making it even harder to get a hearing for marijuana-related bill. Senator James Seward, one of the senior GOP’s in the NY General Assembly, recently told CNHI News that he has “no interest in taking up legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in New York.”

While it is still too early to tell whether New York lawmakers will take steps in the upcoming legislative session to legalize marijuana in a manner similar to Massachusetts, one thing remains clear: New York police officers will continue to bust people for pot until they do.

“State Troopers will continue to enforce New York’s marijuana laws as they do now,” New York State Police spokesman Beau Duffy told WGRZ.

Fortunately, marijuana possession was decriminalized in New York back in the 1970’s—making anything up to 25 grams punishable with a $100 fine for a first time offense. However, smuggling weed across state lines is considered drug trafficking in the eyes of the federal government. The penalties for this offense are much more severe.

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