New York Going to Pot

New York State Capitol in Albany, N.Y.

The most valuable aspect of being human is the use of one’s intellect. The primary line of separation between mankind and the animal kingdom is the ability to think and to choose between good and evil. When one’s reaction to dealing with challenges in life or the preferred method of relaxation is to turn to a substance whose stated purpose is to cloud the mind, that marks an unquantifiable descent for mankind in general.

That is one of the numerous reasons why the new law — passed last week by New York State’s legislature and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo — that legalizes the usage of recreational marijuana was a very bad idea.

Among the assertions presented by supporters of the new law is the uneven enforcement of existing laws that criminalized the use of this substance and that minority groups were unfairly targeted. In addition, its use is thought to be significantly less dangerous compared to other illegal substances.

While such claims do make a compelling argument for the reallocation of law enforcement resources, they fail to explain why marijuana should become legal.
A study by the Rocky Mountain HIDTA Training and Information Center indicates that since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2013, traffic deaths where drivers tested positive for the substance increased 135% while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 24%.
According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between the concentration of THC (the main psychoactive compound in marijuana) in the blood and impaired driving ability.

Even the official New York State Health Department report that gave approval for legalization acknowledged that representatives of law enforcement “noted that in the last 40 years, law enforcement has worked to remove intoxicated drivers from our roadways and has made great strides in making highways safe. They are concerned that legalizing marijuana will increase impaired driving and car crashes, and there could be loss of progress.”

In addition, the same report admitted that “[t]here is strong evidence that individuals with serious mental illnesses (SMI) in general, including psychotic disorders, bipolar disorders, and serious depression, use marijuana at high rates, and those who continue using marijuana have worse outcomes and functioning. … In individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder, there is evidence of an association between regular marijuana use and increased symptoms of mania and hypomania.”

Senator Simcha Felder gave additional strong reasons in casting his vote against the bill.

“The world is currently battling a pandemic that attacks the lungs, and the science available supports the dangers of inhaling substances,” he said. “At a time when we are still battling the devastating effects of the drug crisis, also well documented is the danger of marijuana as a gateway drug.”

It is telling that among the concerns raised in the New York State Health Department report was that “law enforcement raised a concern about drug detection canine units trained to find marijuana. The legalization of marijuana will result in the loss of these dogs, whose training involved significant time and expense.” In the end, New York relied on the fact that “other states have faced the same situation and have re-assigned their canine units.”

That “solution” encapsulates the approach that New York State took to this — and a host of other legitimate concerns. Instead of approaching it through the lenses of human intelligence, they chose to think the way canines would — with frightening consequences.