YORKTOWN, N.Y. – A former Westchester County police officer urged the Town Board at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 18, to oppose the governor’s recently announced push to legalize recreational use of marijuana.
“We teach you in DARE not to smoke marijuana,” said George Winsman, who retired last December from the county force after 34 years and is involved with the state’s Stop DWI initiative. “We tell you all along not to smoke marijuana, and then, well, since we can get a tax on it, it’s OK to smoke it. It’s ridiculous.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a speech outlining his agenda for the first 100 days of his third term only the day before, Dec. 17, that he would promote legalization in the next year. Legalization could generate more than $1.7 billion in sales in the state annually, experts say, but Cuomo did not detail how he would use the tax revenue from those sales or how the drug would be regulated.
Sales, however, were not among Winsman’s concerns.
“Police officers, truck drivers, train people—all have to be tested for marijuana; all drugs, if they have an accident.” He asked board members how they would feel going into surgery knowing the doctor had smoked marijuana, or on an airplane being piloted by a pot smoker.
Unlike alcohol, he said, “Marijuana stays in your system for a long time. You might not be falling down in a Cheech & Chong type of thing, but you’re still impaired.”
“I personally feel that—and [Councilman Tom Diana] agreed with me—that we should have a law drafted in advance of the legalization of marijuana that it will be illegal, and we zone out any recreational marijuana facility stores within the town of Yorktown,” Councilman Ed Lachterman said of a conversation he had with Councilman Diana.
“I don’t know if that is legal to do,” Supervisor Ilan Gilbert said. “I’d like to confer on that.”
“I think we can zone it out,” Lachterman insisted.
“You may be able to zone out stores that sell the marijuana, but not the usage,” Town Attorney Richard Abbate clarified.
“Look, it’s a ‘gateway,’” Lachterman said, referring to the belief that the use of marijuana leads to the use of harder drugs. He noted that last year Cuomo called it the same thing, rejecting calls for legalization, “and now all of a sudden he’s flipping as well.”
“I, personally, think it’s criminal,” Lachterman said.
Furthermore, he said, “If you look at the states where they have legalized recreational marijuana and the increases in traffic accidents, it’s incredible.”
“I think we are all on the same page,” Councilwoman Alice Roker said, “and I think we need to put that in writing and not only send it up to the governor, but to publish it in the paper so that people understand where we sit with the issue.”