Columbia County Health Department wants NYS to slow down on legal pot

From Columbia County Health Department:

January 11, 2019

Revised and replaces previous release

For immediate Release

The Columbia County Board of Health on Tuesday joined with the New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO) in calling on Governor Cuomo and State lawmakers to slow the speed at which the legalization of recreational marijuana is proceeding, to provide adequate time for state and local officials to assess the potential effects on public health.

“Many in public health believe that legalizing recreational marijuana before putting strategies in place to deal with the health and safety issues that legalization would bring could lead to a public health crisis in the coming years,” says Jack Mabb, County Public Health Director. Mabb referenced reports of increased traffic accidents and violent crime in states like Colorado following the legalization of recreational marijuana.

In an op-ed released by NYSACHO on Monday, the organization notes that county health officials serve on the front line of defense in local communities, witnessing the devastation associated with the abuse of opioid medications.

“While the addictive risk of opioids is different than marijuana, we are concerned that the legalization of marijuana will similarly result in unintended, harmful consequences for countless New Yorkers,” writes NYSACHO Executive Director Sarah Ravenhall. NYSACHO has taken a stance opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Monday’s article, and they cite seven questions the Governor and lawmakers should answer before proceeding including:

* How will we protect motorists from drivers under the influence of marijuana? What will be the impairment standard, and how will it be enforced?

* THC remains in the breast milk of mothers for up to six days after marijuana use. How will we protect infants and children from unintentional exposure to the drug?

* New York has proven itself as one of the most aggressive anti-smoking states in the nation, establishing the Clean Indoor Air Act and spending tens of millions of dollars in tobacco settlement revenue to curtail smoking. How is legalizing the smoking of marijuana (the most widely used means of ingestion) consistent with both the spirit and technical implementation that act?

* Brightly colored edibles shaped and/or packaged like candy have strong appeal to children. How will we keep these forms of the drug out of the hands of children?

* Marijuana potency is widely and wildly variable. Many varieties induce a debilitative loss of mental and physical capability. How will potency be measured, tested and enforced?

* Research has substantiated that marijuana use significantly increases the likelihood of addiction to other drugs. What resources will be made available to address the care needs of a new class of persons living with drug addiction?

* What resources will be made available to support public information campaigns that better ensure New Yorkers fully understand these and other potential health impacts?

The NYSACHO article highlighted a quote from a November 25, 2018 Buffalo News editorial, in which Medical Society of the State of New York President Dr. Tom Madejski opined that “There is pretty good evidence that, up to age 25, marijuana usage does change brain development and probably not in a positive way.“

Board of Health President Patricia DiGrigoli says it appears that legalization of marijuana is coming but says her Board just wants those making the decision to be as informed as they can be before that vote.

“NYSACHO has done a good job framing the questions that need to be answered. We’re just looking for lawmakers to answer them before proceeding,” she says, “and we hope as they proceed they ensure that local health departments have the necessary resources to address the negative consequences in our community.”

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