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WAMC (Audio) – Many Unanswered Questions On Marijuana Legalization In NY

AUDIO HERE

By Karen Dewitt, January 5, 2019

Governor Andrew Cuomo is set to release details of a plan to make recreational marijuana legal in New York when he outlines his state budget proposal later this month. But the Democrat concedes that there are many unanswered questions about how to proceed.

Cuomo, who less than two years ago called marijuana a “gateway drug,” says he still has some questions and concerns about legalizing the drug for recreational use. But he says he’s working with a panel of experts, including law enforcement, and health officials who have determined it can be done safely, and that the “benefits outweigh the risks.” The governor says his position has also been influenced by the neighboring states of Massachusetts and New Jersey that have legalized marijuana or are in the process of doing so.

“You’ll just force people to drive to Massachusetts or drive to New Jersey and then come back into this state and use it in this state,” Cuomo said.

The governor says he’s working out a lot of the details right now on how to implement the program, including what the age requirement should be to gain access to the drug.

“How old, how many stores, how much marijuana do you sell to a person, what are the tax revenues?” Cuomo said. “The devil is in the details.”

There are many ideas on how to best use the revenue from the sale of marijuana, including one to help fix New York City’s subways.  

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes is sponsoring a bill she says would help right the wrongs created by the decades of marijuana prohibition. Peoples-Stokes, who is African American, says arrests for using the drug have fallen disproportionately on black and Hispanic New Yorkers, while white residents have rarely been punished. Her measure, which is sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger in the state Senate, would dedicate 50 percent of revenues raised from taxing marijuana sales to a Community Grant Reinvestment Fund, directed at neighborhoods most affected by prohibition. It would fund programs like job training, afterschool activities and reentry programs for people coming out of prison. Peoples-Stokes says it’s very important that legalization of marijuana include reparations for communities most negatively affected.

“It’s critical,” Peoples-Stokes said.

She says it will save the state money because fewer people will be in prison on minor drug charges, and will instead be able to be home to take care of their families. 

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who chairs the Health Committee, sponsored the law to implement medical marijuana in New York a few years ago, and supports legalizing the recreational use of the drug.  

Gottfried says he does not necessarily back dedicating sales tax revenues to a specific fund, though he does want to end inequities in the state’s criminal justice system over past enforcement of the prohibition of the drug.  

“One reasons why I hate the term ‘recreational use’, is that this is not about people having a good time at parties,” said Gottfried. “This is about undoing and preventing the damage that our prohibition system does.”

Gottfried says he’d like to see past criminal records for marijuana related convictions erased.   

The Assemblyman credits Cuomo and his staff for reaching out to supporters, and stakeholders, like marijuana growing businesses to get ideas on how to craft the bill. Gottfried says he does not want to see sales and distribution of the drug come under the control of big businesses, with existing distributors of medical marijuana having a greater influence than smaller startup companies.

And he also supports allowing New Yorkers to grow a limited amount of marijuana at home.

“In some product areas we do allow home production. If you want to brew beer or wine in your basement you’re free to do that,” Gottfried said. “Just don’t try to sell it to your neighbors.”

Not everyone is in favor of legalizing marijuana in New York.

The New York State Association of County Health Officials issued a statement, saying they have “serious concerns” and urging that legalization be approached “thoughtfully and with extreme caution.” 

The county officials say no one under 21 should be permitted to use the drug, and any new rules should fall under the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act to ensure children, and other vulnerable populations are not exposed to marijuana use or secondhand smoke. The group also wants toxicology studies conducted to set standards for impaired driving under the use of the drug. The health officials say they are already dealing with the devastation from opioid abuse, and do not want to see the state inadvertently create another public health crisis.

NY1 (Video) – Recreational Pot Appears Imminent in NY. The Mystery is What the Industry Would Look Like

By Zack Fink, 12/21/18

VIDEO HERE

While the political evolution on legalizing marijuana has been slow, a new consensus by Democratic leaders seems to have arrived almost overnight.

“I think the debate is largely over in New York and we are down to working out the details,” Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said.

But it’s the details that will determine whether New York’s program is successful. When the state instituted its medical marijuana program, Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted that patients could not smoke the drug, which is the most common form of consumption. As a result, advocates say New York’s program has had mixed results, with fewer patients than expected actually participating.

“We have to introduce flower both into our medical program and into our adult-use program,” marijuana advocate Cristina Buccola said. “‘Flower,’ meaning the actual marijuana bud that people smoke — some people prefer that in a medical program, but there’s a whole different way to use flower that does not involve smoking.”

“I think the administration’s view on marijuana has changed enormously from 2014 when we did the medical law,” said Gottfried, who has been working on marijuana legislation for decades. “I think that is partly due to big changes in public attitude.”

This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had previously opposed legalization, weighed in on how he would like to see it done in New York.

“Why don’t we, from the very beginning, ensure that the game is not rigged? Instead of creating very loose laws or laws that favor the 1 percent and the corporations, why don’t we create laws that explicitly hold the corporations and the 1 percent at bay? Do not even let them into this new industry,” the mayor said on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

The mayor went on to admit he does not yet have buy-in from Cuomo on his plan to keep the industry community-based, and a spokesperson for the governor was quite dismissive of de Blasio’s idea. Ultimately, the city has little say over the process, since a state law would establish marijuana legalization.

Cheddar News (Video): Cuomo Expected to Fast Track Legislation to Legalize Marijuana

December 19. 2018

VIDEO HERE

Binghamton.com (video) – NYS Assembly holds hearing about recreational marijuana

November 20, 2018

VIDEO HERE

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – Elected officials are turning to the public for their thoughts on legalizing recreational marijuana. 

Some Democratic members of the New York State Assembly were in Binghamton today for a public hearing regarding the adult use of marijuana. 

Governor Cuomo has proposed legislation that would legalize the substance for adult recreational use.

It was one of four hearings across the state to gather feedback.

Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried says it’s looking likely that legalization will be passed, the main question is how. “Not only about is it a good idea or bad idea. But also about what are the mechanics of it. Creating a new industry is a complicated thing. We haven’t done that in New York since the end of prohibition in 1933. How do we want to organize these businesses? So there are a lot of issues to be dealt with.”

Gottfried says among the concerns brought up include how to test if someone is driving under the influence of pot, how to limit access for children and who would be the major players in the industry.

He supports legalization because he says it would save money spent on law enforcement, lower the number of people incarcerated for non-violent crimes and bring in tax revenue for the state.

Press wrap-up: RAND study confirms NY Health expands coverage, net savings

A new report by the RAND Corporation finds that the New York Health Act single-payer bill would cover all New Yorkers while generating a net savings.  More information can be found here; the full report here; and a summary here.

The report has generated widespread press coverage including:

WCBS Newsradio (audio) – NY Assemblyman Gottfried has plan to circumvent SCOTUS union dues ruling

(Audio in link) – July 5, 2018

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued last week will make it more difficult for unions to collect dues from people who do not want to pay.

Now, a New York state lawmaker has a plan to circumvent the decision.

“I think this is about fundamental fairness,” said Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan).

Young Turks: Single-Payer Health Care Advances in New York

WNYT: 11-year-old girl lobbies for medical marijuana (w/ video)

June 19

ALBANY – Her name is Haley Hilt. She’s 11 years old — and she’s been suffering epileptic seizures since she was an infant.

“Haley is one of the medical marijuana success stories,” says Haley’s mother, Melissa.

When medical marijuana was legalized in New York four years ago, Melissa says her daughter’s seizures were reduced by 75 percent.

“Haley no longer has to suffer through three hours of car drives in order to get the medication she needs that has improved her quality of life significantly,” Melissa says.

Video – Spectrum News: Will single-payer healthcare ever come to New York?

June 14 – Video here.

SPECTRUM NEWS VIDEO: The state assembly has again passed the bill to create a single-payer health care system in New York. And again, the Senate has no plans to vote on it. But in the time since Assemblyman Dick Gottfried first began sponsoring the measure, both the health insurance system and national opinion have changed a lot. He discusses where the issue stands now.

Chelsea Now – Do or Die: A Day in Albany Advocating for Statewide Healthcare

By Donathan Salkaln, June 13

UPDATE: On Thurs., June 14th, in Albany, NY, Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced the passage of a universal single-payer health plan that would provide comprehensive health coverage for all New Yorkers.

How bad has our health care system become? A 25-year-old man is sideswiped by a truck on a busy Downtown street. The ambulance brings him to an East Side emergency room. “Broken leg, shattered bone sticking out of skin,” recalled Dr. Danny Lugassy. “He’s pulling out IVs, and pushing away nurses. I ask him, ‘What are you doing?’ He begs me, ‘Please do the bare minimum possible. I just started a job, but my health care won’t start until next month!’ ”

On June 5, two buses loaded with advocates of single-payer healthcare, mostly from Chelsea, Hells Kitchen, and Greenwich Village, left W. 33rd St. near Penn Station and headed to the state capitol to rally and lobby with others for single-payer healthcare. The event was organized by the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) in tandem with the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), 1199 SEIU, and over 100 labor and community organizations in the Campaign for New York Health. The day included pre-arranged individual office meetings with state senators, to voice healthcare concerns.

“Nearly every day, patients tell me they can’t afford the care that I
want to give them,” said Dr. Danny Lugassy, board member, Physicians for a National Health Program — NY Metro Chapter. | Photo by Donathan Salkaln