The Republican Party of New York has officially come out against Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to legalize recreational marijuana across the Empire State. And their reasons are just as dubious and outdated as you'd expect from a group whose leader is the son-in-law of the late Richard Nixon.
Cannabis legalization seems all but inevitable for New York, where Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature, and Governor Cuomo has included marijuana tax revenues in his 2020 budget. Yet the state's Republican Party has nevertheless decided to launch a campaign against marijuana reform. The opposition's stance is mostly built on cherry-picking data sourced from Colorado and other states that have legalized cannabis. Unsurprisingly, the anti-cannabis campaign is trotting out tired talking points against marijuana reform, including that legalization will lead to higher rates of underage consumption (it doesn't) and a spike in drug-impaired driving, which has yet to happen in legal jurisdictions like the entirety of Canada.
But the New York Republican Party won't let stats and case studies get in the way of their 'reefer madness' rhetoric.
"The legalization of marijuana doesn't make sense. There are huge dangers," Republican State Committee Chairman Ed Cox told the New York Post.
Cox added that Cuomo's plan to legalize weed is "all about politics," which the governor would probably agree with. When announcing his plan to legalize marijuana last December, Cuomo said the move would help rectify the imbalance of justice in New York law enforcement.
"We have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well-off, and one for everyone else. We will advance our justice agenda and particularly address the forms of injustice that for too long have unfairly targeted the African American and minority communities."
So trying to slam legalization by saying its "all about politics" is like criticizing the American flag for being all about stars and stripes. Yes, it is, so what's your point?
Perhaps realizing the absurdity of accusing a politician of pursuing a political issue, Julie Killian - an unsuccessful candidate in the 2018 race for lieutenant governor of New York - said that the estimated tax revenue that legalization would reap aren't worth the risks.
"There's scientific evidence that marijuana usage brings serious mental health issues," she said.
While some studies have shown that cannabis consumption can have a negative impact on your mental health, other studies make it abundantly clear that prohibition doesn't deter marijuana use. But the tax revenues from cannabis can be used to combat mental-health disorders and other negative side effects that may arise from cannabis use, which will continue to be an issue whether legalization becomes law or not. Just as alcoholism continued to be a serious problem in America in the 1920s and 30s despite alcohol prohibition. Like many marijuana reformers before him, Governor Cuomo isn't trying to legalize cannabis because he wants every New Yorker to start smoking up. Legalization is about moving beyond a failed drug policy and tackling the tackling the cannabis issue with a public health and safety approach instead of a criminal justice approach.
To Killian's credit, she and the other notable Republicans are backing a push to loosen the state's cannabis laws by decriminalizing marijuana possession instead of legalizing it. While that measure could do some good for individual consumers, the people growing and selling cannabis to them would still face criminal charges. So decriminalization would only perpetuate the two-tiered justice system that Cuomo is trying to fix.
But instead of considering such nuances, Killian offered a hysterical plea for the state's youth. "Abuse of marijuana and alcohol are killer of dreams," she said.
Well, if she really cared about the welfare of young New Yorkers, she would oppose cannabis prohibition, which has destroyed the dreams of millions of Americans who have seen their potential cut short by criminal records for marijuana-related offenses.