Livingston Co. Sheriff Puts Out Statement, Against Legalizing Marijuana in NYS

February 8, 2019

    Statement From Livingston County Sheriff Tom Doughtery:

Several law enforcement leaders from across Western NY gathered in Livingston County to oppose marijuana being legalized as a recreational drug on behalf of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association and the New York State Association of Police Chiefs. In attendance were Chiefs and Sheriffs from across Western NY, representing over 500 years of law enforcement experience collectively.

The following was cited as facts to opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana and the state of Colorado was chosen for statistical data as they were one of the first states to legalize and therefore have the best data available for a factual break down.

TRAFFIC SAFETY

-An alarming rate of 69% of self described marijuana users in Colorado admit to driving after consuming marijuana.

-Traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled between 2013 and 2017.

-Since recreational marijuana was legalized, marijuana related traffic deaths increased 151 percent (as compared to a 35 percent increase overall).

CRIME RATES

• Increased overall crime rate—The crime rate in Colorado has increased 11 times faster than that of the rest of the nation since legalization, with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reporting an 8.3% increase in property crimes and an 18.6% increase in violent crimes (Colorado Bureau of Investigation [CBI], 2017).
• Increased crime around dispensaries- Areas around legal marijuana stores have become particularly dangerous localities. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that the density of marijuana dispensaries was linked to increased property crimes in nearby areas (Freisthler, Gaidus, Tam, Ponicki, & Gruenewald, 2017).

ILLEGAL MARIJUANA SALES DO NOT STOP

• Proliferation of black market operations—Legalization does not eliminate the illegal growing, sale and possession of marijuana—it just creates an opportunity for market forces to operate. Unregulated, untaxed marijuana can be sold more cheaply than the regulated and taxed kind, so entrepreneurs step into the market opportunity. Narcotics officers have reported a 50% increase in illegal grow operations across rural areas of Colorado (Stewart, 2017). In 2016 alone, Colorado law enforcement confiscated 7,116 pounds of marijuana, carried out 252 felony arrests, and made 346 highway interdictions of marijuana headed to 36 different U.S. states (RMHIDTA, 2017). The U.S. mail system has also been affected by the black market, seeing an 844% increase in marijuana seizures (RMHIDTA, 2017). A leaked police report in Oregon revealed that at least 70% of marijuana sales in 2016 were on the black market and around three to five times the amount of marijuana consumed in Oregon leaves the state for illegal sales (Hughes, 2017; Associated Press, 2017, August 14; OSPDES, 2017). The U.S. Attorney in Oregon reported in 2018 that “Oregon has a massive marijuana overproduction problem,” with 2,644 pounds of marijuana in outbound postal parcels and over $1.2 million in cash seized in 2017 alone (Williams, 2018).

REVENUE

Revenue Implications- The projected first year revenue for the State would be $83 million from marijuana legalization which amounts to a mere 0.0485% of the current State budget, and even out-year projections of 184 million in revenue would amount to only 1/10 of 1% of current state revenue (YES THAT IS CORRECT 1/10 of 1% of the current budget). Again we know from the Colorado experience that the increased cost for law enforcement, safety, property damage and loss, mental and physical health and general welfare will far out-weigh the revenue from legalization.

IT IS A PLANT ARGUMENT

Yes, marijuana is a plant and comes from the ground, just like heroin comes from the poppy, from the ground. Just because it comes from the ground, does not make it safe and our concern is for public safety.

HEALTH

Health Concerns- Local public health officials and many health related organizations oppose the legalization of marijuana as contrary to New York State’s aggressive anti-smoking stance, as well as being perilous to people’s health in its own right. According to a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the negative effects of long-term marijuana use are tangible, and especially dangerous to young people (Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use, N. Engl. J. Med., 2014; 370:2219-27). Their voices should be listened to in this debate.