Is legalized pot inevitable? Sheriff Mills says yes
By Joe Moskowitz
Delaware County Sheriff Thomas Mills said last week that the first arrest he ever made when he was a rookie patrolman in Oneonta was of an off duty police officer who was smoking marijuana. That was more than 35 years ago.
And now, Mills said he is looking at what he calls “the inevitability” of its recreational marijuana use becoming legal in New York State.
New York has long had some of the toughest anti-pot laws in America. Governor Andrew Cuomo is on record saying he opposes even the medical use of marijuana, but, during last week’s “State of The State: address, he did an about face. He announced that he will issue an executive order allowing limited medical use of the drug. The state legislature approved it in 1980 so he has the executive authority to make medical marijuana legal.
A different process
It won’t be like the 19 other states that have approved its use. There won’t be any dispensaries, and it will be administered by about 20 still-to-be determined hospitals. Hospitals will get the marijuana from still-to-be determined sources. It will only be administered in the hospitals to people with cancer, glaucoma and diseases where other options have failed. It will not be like California where a backache qualifies. And it certainly won’t be like Colorado, the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. But there are many who think a legal “Catskill Mountain high” will become a reality.
One of them is Sheriff Mills. He said it may be a year, maybe five years, but he feels it will happen, and when he does, he said it will provide even more work for his deputies who are already overwhelmed by drug-related crime. He said that while marijuana is not a “Gateway Drug” for everyone who smokes, it does lead to the use of stronger drugs by some people. And he said, marijuana itself is many times more potent than when he made that first arrest in 1967.
Mills said that among the problems caused by legalized marijuana will be a significant increase in arrests for driving while impaired. He also said there will be societal issues, such as people showing up to work stoned.
Despite its current unlawful status, Mills said he knows how prevalent pot use is in Delaware County. He conceded that we might be better off taxing and, regulating it. But he said we should carefully examine what is going on in Colorado. Mills said there are consequences, sometime good, sometimes bad, to every law that is passed, and New York needs to be aware of the possible consequences.
Meanwhile marijuana is still illegal in New York. There has been some decriminalization. Possession of less than 25 grams that is not on public display is a $100 dollar fine and there is no criminal record for the first offense. It’s like a traffic ticket. But if it is shown or used in public, sold, or even given away, grown, or if a person is in possession of more than 25 grams, the law still calls for significant fines and jail terms. And, federal law bans anyone convicted of any drug law from receiving a government funded student loan.