Medical Experts and Elected Discuss Legalizing Pot

As more and more states are legalizing marijuana, many are wondering when New York will follow suit. Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering putting it in the budget in April.

Marijuana is legal in 11 states and Washington, D.C. for adults over the age of 21, and legal for medical use in 33 states.

On Thursday, February 28, a panel of representatives from coalitions hosted a town hall at Hunts Point Library, 877 Southern Boulevard, where they discussed the potential impact marijuana commercialization could have on communities in the Bronx. The speakers were Melissa Robbins (moderator), regional director, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), Dr. Joseph Lurio, Family Physician Institute /associate professor Icahn School of Medicine, D, Angela Torres, vice president PTA P.S. 304, Rev. Addie Banks, CEO, Groundswell, creator of WEPA (We Engage in Prevention Awareness) and Senator Luis Sepulveda.

Sabet, who travels the world and country opposing the decriminalization of marijuana, said legalizing weed would not help the Bronx. Sabet stressed that alcohol and tobacco don’t make towns rich, so why would weed?
“You aren’t going to make money selling legal marijuana,” he said.

In fact, since Colorado legalized marijuana arrests for public marijuana use and accidents have increased. Many pot users have trouble finding work or get fired because of their weed use.

Furthermore, there is no test to determine if someone is high or how high if pulled over while operating a vehicle.

“We don’t have to be geniuses to know it doesn’t exactly make you a very alert person,” he said.

Torres, who has traveled to California for work the last 12 years, has witnessed legal weed firsthand.

While living in the Bronx, the smell of weed is everywhere, she explained. Whether it’s in the street or in a Burlington Coat Factory, the aroma is evident.

“This is alarming to me because of the amount of asthma that our residents are already affecting. Attacking our young ill children is already so great and that is without adding the smoke of weed,” Torres said.

According to Torres, if weed is legalized there needs to be a system in place to determine how high a driver is when pulled over by the police.

She emotionally asked: “Do we really want a society where accidents increase because of legal weed?

Sepulveda took a bit of a different approach. He said while he doesn’t support legal weed, it needs to be decriminalized.

He stressed he is not encouraging people to smoke, but said an underlying issue is people of color get locked up for using marijuana far more often than white people. Having an arrest can prevent someone from getting a scholarship, job or derail their life.

“Weed has been incredibly destructive in terms of criminal convictions primarily in black and brown communities,” the senator said. “Why is it always the poor black and brown communities that suffer? People are not going to stop smoking marijuana. It’s a fantasy to think that we can regulate this type of behavior.”









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