Blankenbush will seek reelection to Assembly

117th District Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — New York is poised to legalize recreational marijuana, but some of the north country’s legislators say they’re seriously concerned about the plan.

State Democrats on Saturday introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would make recreational consumption of marijuana by adults legal immediately once signed into law.

Known as the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, the bill would also set up a bureaucracy to facilitate marijuana farming, retail sales and delivery services across New York state, while expunging most marijuana-related criminal records and investing significant amounts of revenue in communities of people most affected by criminalization.

Proponents of the law say it’s an equitable way to stop the damage done to people of color by the war on drugs and a great way to bring in some extra tax revenue for the state as well.

Not everyone is happy with the new legislation, and north country legislators seem united in their opposition to it.

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, said in a statement that he’s wholly opposed to the bill, which he said is a “distraction” for the legislature from dealing with the pandemic and sorting out the state budget, which is due on April 1.

“Every law enforcement agency and addiction treatment organization I have talked to is against the bill,” he said. “After listening to countless people in our district who will be on the front lines of dealing with marijuana legalization, I will be a no vote when it comes to the Assembly floor tomorrow.”

In a statement, state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said she’s worried about the long-term effects the MRTA may have on drug addiction.

“While I am still reviewing the proposed legislation, one of my chief concerns regarding legalization is timing,” Sen. Ritchie said. “We are in the midst of a pandemic where we have seen drug abuse and overdoses increase significantly. I fear the legalization of marijuana will only exacerbate the challenges we face when it comes to drug abuse in our communities.”

Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, said that while he has supported decriminalizing cannabis possession, he believes legal recreational marijuana use “just goes too far.” In a statement, Mr. Jones said that many people in recovery from drug addiction have expressed concerns over the proposal as well.

“Considering how the pandemic has only exacerbated the opioid crisis in the north country I do not want to rush into legalizing recreational cannabis as a way to raise state revenue.”

Mr. Jones noted that he also has concerns over the plan to distribute tax revenue from cannabis sales, and continues to have concerns over how police will deal with drivers under the influence of marijuana.

A spokesperson for state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said the senator is still reviewing the legislation, and Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown, did not return a request for comment.

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I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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(3) comments

harrison

If it's so horrible then why haven't Colorado, California, Oregon and the other states where it's legalized and has been for years seen an upsurge in drug addiction? They haven't because the idea that it is a gateway drug has been proven time and time again to be nonsense. When you buy from a drug dealer he may have other drugs that he wants you to try then buy. When you buy from a state run MJ shop the only product that's offered is MJ and only MJ. Haven't we learned anything from the failure of Prohibition and our disastrous drug war that has been a total failure. I wonder how many of these critics worrying about legalized MJ have a few beers or Martinis after a days work? If they do then they are total hypocrites. Anyone that partakes of the most dangerous drug(alcohol) known to man has absolutely no right to knock legalized weed. Chug a fifth of Jack Daniels and you'll die or end up getting your stomach pumped at the hospital. Smoke a bunch of weed and all that'll happen is that you'll be high and very sleepy. PS, I use neither weed nor alcohol.

CondervstismIsFaiure

I can't wait to roll up the biggest & smelliest doobie & go smoke it outside Ken Blackenbush's office.

Elections have consequences & a Blackenbush, Richie & the rest of the GOP is in the minority, get use to it.

JohnMcElroy

This read although informative just touches the tip of the iceberg. If you didn't believe marijuana is a gateway drug I can tell you it is. The stimulus checks are being used to purchase crack and other high powered drugs and that is about as gateway as you can get. Did you ever see a person on crack or cocaine, I have and they have this shetfaced look as if they are somewhere else. That's what will result in northern New York never mind what's already happening in New York City. So by all means legalize weed and increase the use of hard core drugs in St Lawrence County thank you for making our area a swell place to live.

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