Public hearing held on marijuana legalization in NYS

Crystal Peoples Stokes at head of second hearing for cannabis legalization statewide

Mike Baggerman
November 19, 2018 - 1:43 pm

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples Stokes in Buffalo Common Council chambers leading the public hearing on marijuana legalization in New York State. November 19, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Monday was the second of four listening sessions across New York State on the legalization of recreational marijuana  for adults.

The listening session was held at Buffalo City Hall. Members of the public were allowed to watch the hearing but could not participate. Instead, various panels ranging from legal experts, activists, and health professionals participated.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples Stokes, who introduced a bill which will legalize the drug's use if it passes, said most of the public hearings featured a similar messaging around New York State from those who weighed in. She said people want marijuana to be legal and that its legalization would eliminate the records of minorities whose convictions on marijuana crimes were "unfair". 

"I do think because the governor did those listening sessions and put together those work groups, he will introduce something in the ensuing budget and rectify this issue," Peoples Stokes said. 

During the hearing, Stokes talked about unfair treatment of minorities and noted that African American people are arrested more often for marijuana possession while noting people who smoke marijuana near or at the Buffalo Bills stadium seldom see the same punishments. 

WBEN spoke with two people from Buffalo who observed the hearings and believe that marijuana should be legalized. 

Thomas, who didn't want to give his last name, believes that people on Buffalo's East Side could benefit.

"In California, they're raising like $20 billion a year in revenue," Thomas said. "What do you think that could do for Buffalo? It would help a lot."

According to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, tax revenue from the cannabis industry totaled $74.2 million from April 1 to June 30, which includes state cultivation, excise, and sales tax. 

Tonya Pickett Stewart-Gray said legalizing marijuana is a "no-brainer" and could have many health benefits. 

"Why shouldn't it?" she said. "They legalize alcohol and tobacco. Tobacco is one of the main killers."

Another public hearing on marijuana is scheduled for Tuesday in Binghamton while the final public hearing is scheduled for early-December in Long Island. Peoples-Stokes said she expects more public hearings once the legislative session begins in January. 

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