By Andrew Banas, originally published in WHAM on Thursday, March 25th 2021.

NYS Closes In on Recreational Pot Legalization

ROCHESTER, NY (WHAM) – New York now stands to become the 16th state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

The law legalizes and decriminalizes limited amounts of pot for people 21 and over.

Attorney Tristan Hujer says he expects the bill to pass any day now. But people shouldn’t expect dispensaries to open up overnight.

“The state will have to create a new regulatory body to oversee adult-use marijuana in the state or delegate authority to an existing department – for example, the department of health,” said Hujer.

That process could take up to 18 months, he said.

State Sen. Jeremy Cooney, D-Rochester, said legalization could have a positive effect.

“This legislation does something incredibly important and different than previous ones,” he said. “In this new legislation, community investment will be tied to revenue. Therefore, the more tax revenue earned by the state of New York, the more that will go back into the communities that have been disproportionately impacted” like through education or workforce training.

However, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said he has yet to see the revenue breakdown of sales tax revenue.

“The one challenge I think that remains and that is always going to remain when it comes to this issue is making sure that we have the right tools in place to be able to handle what it will look like when someone is driving impaired,” he said.

Law enforcement would be allowed to justify suspicion of intoxication by the odor of cannabis. But, there are challenges, according to Gates Police Chief Jim VanBrederode.

He credits breathalyzers with helping detect drunk driving. But no such tool exists to detect marijuana use.

We don’t really have a device that tests just how intoxicated are they by the marijuana,” said VanBrederode. “That could pose problems when we go to court. When we do charge people with driving under the influence of drugs, it’s going to make this a lot more difficult and messier.”