BUFFALO, N.Y. – It’s unlikely New York will see legalized recreational marijuana any time soon, despite the pleas from a former Erie County Executive in a news conference on Tuesday.
But legalization is at least on the state’s radar. Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat representing Buffalo, sponsors an Assembly bill that would allow for people 18 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana. That bill has never gained any traction, however, facing particular challenges in the State Senate.
Still, eight states have now legalized recreational marijuana, including Massachusetts and Maine, where voters approved referendums in November.
Recreational pot officially became legal in Maine on Monday, although the governor signed a moratorium bill last week that restricts the sale of marijuana until 2018. The moratorium is intended to give the state a year to figure out how to regulate recreational marijuana.
Jessica Gagne, a reporter at 2 On Your Side’s sister station WCSH-TV in Portland, Maine, said the public still seems somewhat confused about what they can or cannot do in their state as it pertains to marijuana. The referendum passed by voters allows people 21 years or older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana or six mature plants.
“But it’s not legal to buy marijuana or sell it right now, so that kind of complicates things,” Gagne said. “Basically, people are wondering now, ‘it’s legal for me to possess it, but how do I get it?’ You can’t go buy it on the street and you can’t buy it at any businesses.”
Law enforcement agencies are scrambling to figure out how to enforce the new law, just as they’re adjusting to laws in other states.
Maine and Massachusetts may be the closest states to New York to legalize recreational pot, but the Canadian Liberal government is also expected to introduce legislation this spring to legalize the drug nationwide, which could have major implications for border cities like Buffalo.
The first state in America to legalize recreational pot, of course, was Colorado.
Tobias Ripsom, a partner at Veritas Fine Cannabis in Denver, Colo., said he believes the marijuana industry has provided a financial boost to the city of Denver and the state of Colorado. He’d like to see the United States legalize recreational pot at a federal level someday.
“You take the mystique out of it, tax it, regulate it, and do the same thing– get out in front of it,” Ripsom said. “And everyone’s all the wiser and better off by all means.”