Erie County Sheriff among those worried about marijuana and public safety

Howard: "There's still way too many unknowns"

Mike Baggerman
February 08, 2019 - 3:00 am

Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard. February 7, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Count Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard among those who have major reservations about the legalization of marijuana.

Howard joined Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty on Thursday to discuss marijuana's legalization.

"The legislation is moving way too fast," Howard said. "There's still way too many unknowns."

Howard said the public safety aspect of legalizing marijuana is concerning because of people who are driving while under the influence. Police officials cited 2018 statistics from the Colorado Department of Safety, which showed an increase in black market activity since 2008, a large increase in traffic deaths from 2013 to 2017, and a steady increase in the rate of hospitalization due to marijuana exposure from 2000 to 2015.  

"The breathalyzer gives you an indication or a scientific reading that says what the alcohol content is at that moment in time," Howard said. "The test for marijuana, there are drug recognition experts (which attend) a very lengthy and very intense school with a very limited number of individuals that have had that training. They are able to make that estimate for what the marijuana content is at that time."

Howard noted there aren't as many tools to measure the amount of marijuana in an individual's system at the time of an arrest.

With jails being overcrowded, Howard said there are very few people who are in jail solely for marijuana possession statewide.

"You may find that the low-level of marijuana may have led to further police scrutiny that led to the discovery of some other offense, which landed that individual in jail," he said. "But I do not think the legalization of recreational use of marijuana...would have the effect of putting less dangerous people in our jail."

Resulting Governor Cuomo's influence in Albany with a democratic legislature, Howard noted that the political will of one person is not the way New York State should be governed. 

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