Central New York, Government, Health

Syracuse Common Councilor In Favor Of Recreational Marijuana Use

A report on the possible impacts of legalized marijuana in central New York. (c) 2018 Isabella Wood

Video Transcript: Script PDF

By Isabella Wood SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to introduce legislation to federally decriminalize marijuana. He hopes for states to be the ones deciding on the drug’s status. A few states have already legalized it for recreational use, but New York is not one of them. 

States with legalized recreational marijuana:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Some people, Syracuse Common Councilor Joe Driscoll included, think legalizing the drug could solve a lot of problems in the region.

“It’s really ridiculous that we’re wasting so much time and energy on marijuana arrests,” Driscoll said. “Making it legal allows you to tax it and also the quality of the plants, you can make sure they’re being regulated in government so that it’s safe. We have a problem in this area with synthetic marijuana and things like that where people are getting a lot of mixed chemical stuff from the street.”

But not everyone is so sure this is the solution.

Keelie Hotchkiss has lived in central New York her entire life. Even though the drug has always been illegal for recreational use, she had her first experience with marijuana at just 15 years old.

“It was at a Mumford & Sons concert. I walked in and it was like, all weed,” Hotchkiss said.

While she sees the potential benefit of government regulation, she thinks that people will always find ways to make illicit drugs.

“I think it’ll always be around,” Hotchkiss said of synthetic marijuana. “Even if you legalize weed, people will start getting that, but the underground stuff will still always be there, because they’ll find a new way to make it worse.”

Recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2014. In 2015, the marijuana industry made almost 2.4 billion dollars, according to a report by the marijuana policy group. Driscoll thinks these numbers are promising for central New York.

“The primary thing that people have noted is it’s an economic boom which I think central New York and Syracuse could really use,” Driscoll said.

A report by the Washington State office of Financial Management says that in September of 2016, Washington State brought in 26 million dollars worth of taxes off of the marijuana industry. Driscoll thinks we have every reason to look at this data and believe that the legalization of marijuana would have similar affects in central New York.

Some people fear that the real danger of marijuana is that it is considered a gateway drug.

“I don’t think the data supports that,” Driscoll said. “I think that what we’ve seen in places like Nevada and Colorado and stuff is you’re not seeing a huge increase in crime or trouble or problems or hard drugs, at least not to my knowledge. The data I’ve seen implies the opposite.”

Being that several states have already legalized the drug, many questions about things like health risks and economic impacts have been cleared up.

“I think the data has shown that marijuana, less so than alcohol or any of the other types of drugs, doesn’t lead to reckless driving or as many fatalities or health risks as a lot of other recreational habits that people have,” Driscoll said.

“I think overall, I think it could be a net benefit for the area,” Driscoll said.