By John Tiberia and Mikah Covelli
Watch out, 4/20. There’s a new date associated with marijuana: January 1st, 2018. On that day, marijuana was officially legalized for recreational use in California. Retail cannabis stores were opened up for the first time in Oakland, California, where scores of people waited to buy their goods. In light of such legalization, one must consider: is this the best move for California right now? What does this mean for New Yorkers? Are our communities next?
Legalization will impact various aspects of Californian life; the state will witness widespread changes in both the economy and society. The boom of the marijuana market is predicted to generate a great deal of revenue for the state, estimated by the Los Angeles Times to reach $5 billion. However, the economic consequences of legalization are yet to be wholly positive. Small pot farmers in California will suffer under legalization, as they face increased competition from large corporations that are beginning to sell cannabis. Unfortunately, their Lilliputian efforts may be no match for the might of gargantuan businesses.
Individual residents of the Golden State are further impacted by this widespread legalization; according to The Huffington Post, states that have legalized medical marijuana have experienced a decrease in crime rates for homicide and assault. That is not to say that marijuana legalization will completely eradicate criminal incidents in California. It is possible that law enforcement may become an increasingly difficult task, as police officers aiming to keep communities safe could face a growing number of individuals who might participate in dangerous activities such as driving while impaired by marijuana. When such users choose to operate a vehicle after marijuana consumption, they endanger those who are not “high” or impaired, disrupting the lives of their fellow citizens.
Should recreational usage of marijuana be legalized in New York, citizens may experience similar effects as residents of California, particularly in regard to socioeconomics. Small-scale marijuana growers in New York may take hits to their profits as mega-corporations outsell and outsupply them in product. New Yorkers may witness a decrease in criminal occurrences such as homicides, but an increase in the number of marijuana-related car accidents and collisions.
New Yorker Stephanie Sadocha, a ninth grader at Oyster Bay High School, provided her opinion regarding California’s marijuana legalization. When asked, “How do you feel about California legalizing marijuana?” Stephanie replied, “I think that it could be really dangerous for all types of people, not only the people using but the people around them too.” When queried as to how legalization could affect people in Oyster Bay, Sadocha stated, “It can affect people here because New York could be next to legalize marijuana, and that could be dangerous to the people of this state and this town.”
Since the legalization of marijuana 2,789.8 miles away has the potential to impact New Yorkers on economic, societal, and criminal scales, residents of the state should take note of any future weed-related occurrences in California. The consequences of legalization are not predicted to be solely positive, and the public’s heeding of California’s handling of its newfound legalization is a must for both New York’s residents and its state government, especially as the Empire state looks towards possible legalization.