New Paltz town and village officials passed resolutions on Thursday, June 7 calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana use at both state and federal levels.
Deputy Mayor KT Tobin said that the issue was largely one of social justice; while usage rates are about the same across racial boundaries, people of color are four times as likely to be arrested for it than whites.
A report refuting the premise that marijuana is a “gateway drug” was released from the Benjamin Center last year where Tobin works. She said that a state health department report on recreational marijuana, which reportedly is completed but not yet released, is expected to support changing state laws to allow for the plant’s use by adults.
Tobin also spoke about the tax benefits, echoing strategies taken by elected officials regarding gasoline, cigarettes and casino gambling. Economists observe that taxation serves to reduce instances of a particular behavior.
Village trustee Don Kerr, who once made national news after being arrested — and then exonerated — for accepting a shipment of several pounds of marijuana, speculated as to what other actions local officials might take to further this agenda. He referenced the same-sex weddings held here in 2004 when they were still illegal, but stopped short of actually suggesting anything specific. He later said he would be open to recommendations proposed by leaders of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, whose feedback is being sought.