The Examiner

P’ville Leaders Prepare for Impacts of Recreational Marijuana

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Members of a coalition dedicated to reducing underage drinking and drug use are working with Pleasantville school and village officials to protect children should recreational marijuana be legalized in New York State.

With an increasing likelihood that the state legislature could approve the use of recreational marijuana in the upcoming 2019 session, Pleasantville STRONG and the Pleasantville School District have been advancing preventative measures to help guide parents and students on marijuana’s dangers and health risks.

During a Dec. 10 Village Board work session, school officials and Pleasantville STRONG proposed a joint resolution opposing legalization.

“I have not seen a school board and village board or town council come together to form a joint resolution,” said Coalition Coordinator Nicole Malgarinos. “It really is a powerful statement when these two bodies can come together.”

Malgarinos explained that marijuana use is a cause for concern among youth. It’s been a challenge educating the public on the risks, and legalization will only increase its impact on youth. The legalization issue is a corporate-driven machine with advertising focused on appealing to younger people, she said.

Malgarinos added that the issue has resulted in Pleasantville STRONG leaders pleading with state lawmakers to slow down and analyze how marijuana use is currently impacting youngsters and communities before taking action.

Medical marijuana use has been legal in New York since 2014. On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, once an opponent of recreational marijuana, announced that he will advocate for its legalization. It is estimated that it would bring in additional tax revenue of $248 million and $677 million in the first year.

“The fact is we have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well off, and one for everyone else,” Cuomo said.

Currently, 10 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.

Recently, Cuomo concluded a series of listening sessions that offered advice on different legislative and regulatory approaches to legalization. The goal is to draft a bill that lawmakers can consider next year.

Judy Mezey, assistant director for community-based programs for Student Assistance Services, warned that marijuana is more dangerous to the adolescent brain due to an elevated increase of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which makes the substance more potent. She added that data has revealed that marijuana use has resulted in increased hospitalizations and traffic fatalities in states that have legalized it recreationally.

Mezey cited statistics showing there are more marijuana outlets than Starbucks and McDonald’s in states such as Colorado.

“We’re really concerned with young people more than anything else,” Mezey said. “There’s a lot of reason to be concerned, both on the effects on the developing brain and bodies of young people, but also on the communities, as well.”

Pleasantville STRONG leader John Mueller stressed the importance of working to craft common-sense ordinances to guard against adolescent use, distribution, packaging and the sale of marijuana. Mueller suggested passing a law that would restrict marijuana advertising throughout the village. He also advised crafting a resolution that would allow adults to exercise their rights while taking the necessary steps to protect local youths.

Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter noted that every municipality in the state is different. She said the ability for children to be exposed to marijuana is exponentially higher in Pleasantville.

“We’re clearly not talking about adults doing what they’re allowed to legally, we’re talking about this extra layer of protection for our children because this town is so small,” Fox-Alter said. “Any resolution will contribute to the conversation and I think that sends a message to everyone.”

Mayor Peter Scherer said the boards would continue to communicate with Pleasantville STRONG and the school district to draft a resolution and use their influence to ensure recreational marijuana is properly regulated if it is legalized.



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