Op-Ed: Fix the Marijuana Loopholes to Protect Children

Science tells us that the human brain does not completely develop until around the age of 25.

We as a culture have dedicated significant time and effort to teaching our children the dangers of
smoking combustible tobacco. As the prevalence of nicotine vaping has, legalizing the
recreational use of marijuana has the potential to reverse the overwhelming success in deterring
kids from inhaling combustible carcinogens.

And, despite, its stated purpose and intent of “preventing access to cannabis by those under the
age of 21 years old,” the marijuana legalization bill does nothing to protect children in this state
from the negative impacts of recreational drug use. In fact, it does the exact opposite. It:

 Sets no potency limits;
 Unlike drunk driving there is no penalty for a minor driving while impaired on drugs;
 Lowers the penalties for selling marijuana to children;
 Lowers the penalty for a child who possesses marijuana;
 Puts marijuana dispensaries within 500 feet of a school;
 Allows for pot to be delivered directly to someone’s home; and
 Inexplicably, it provides a complete defense from conviction if the defendant is within three years of the child he/she is selling to – where no other exception exists anywhere else in the NYS Penal

This poorly designed law effectively eliminates any meaningful deterrents to sell illicit
marijuana to children or a deterrent for children to buy, possess and use marijuana.

As such, I propose the following amendments to rectify some of the loopholes contained within
1. Potency – capping flower marijuana at 15% and marijuana concentrates at 25%;
2. Set standards for driving while impaired on drugs to include “any substance or combination of substances that impair to any extent physical and mental abilities”;
3. Bring vaping under the control of the NYS Liquor Authority to better regulate vape stores and underage vaping sales;
4. Increase the penalty for under age possession from a $50 summons and receiving a pamphlet on the dangers of marijuana to include: 1) notify the child’s parents; 2) parentsand child must attend Marijuana Drug Diversion Program to assess for Marijuana Useand Polydrug Use Disorder;
5. Underage driving while impaired on pot: the first offense the child will lose driving privileges to age 18, second offense the child will lose driving privileges to age 21, similar to VTL 1192-a; and
6. Annual Independent Audit Report from the NYS Comptroller and AGs office, as well as
non-governmental organizational input, not just state agency input to white wash the impact of the new legislation. 
In states that have already moved forward with legalization, marijuana usage by children ages
12-18 doubled within 30 days of the policy taking effect. Recreational legalization has led to
increased commercialization and a glamorized perception of drug use among children and young
adults. If we continue to further policies that normalize recreational drugs, we can only expect
individuals to use controlled substances at increased rates and at younger ages.

The law passed by the Democrat Majority and signed by the governor does nothing to prevent
illegal black market pot sales to children and puts all our children at risk. The law reduces and in
some cases eliminates sanctions for illegal sales to children when they should be made stronger.
In contrast, these sound amendments will go a long way to dissuade and protect our children
from exploitation and the dangers of marijuana and polydrug use.

Keith Brown is a member of the New York State Assembly, representing Northport.

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