Ithaca (WSYR-TV) -- Washington State legalized the recreational use of marijuana – as long as you’re at least 21 years of age.
At least one local leader says New York State should get on board. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick discourages others from smoking marijuana. But, he's publicly calling on the governor to help make it a legal choice.
"Here we've got 18 states now, plus Washington D.C. that have legalized medicinal marijuana. We now have two states that have legalized small personal amounts of marijuana. So, it's clear that we are not on the forefront here,” Myrick said.
Myrick believes New York State lawmakers should immediately legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Eventually, he'd like to see the drug become totally legal, regulated and taxed.
"I think it’s definitely a topic that is going to ruffle some feathers, but it’s a conversation that is worth having. I mean there are pros and cons, but I think we should have a discussion on this topic,” Ithaca resident Nicole Mormilo said.
You can still get arrested for publicly smoking marijuana in Ithaca, but the mayor feels so strongly about legalization that he told the police chief not to waste resources on small pot busts, but to focus on harder drugs and other crimes.
"People don't think it’s a gateway drug, especially kids, but it definitely is. It’s a huge gateway drug. Almost everyone I speak to started off doing marijuana and they moved on to -- not everyone moved on to harder drugs -- but the ones that moved on to harder drugs start off with marijuana,” explained Drug Education Specialist Colby Sutter.
Sutter started an organization called Seven Miles
, focusing on anti-drug education in schools. He doesn't buy the argument that regulating marijuana would destroy a dangerous underground market. He fears legalization would encourage experimenting by young people, the same group Mayor Myrick wants to protect.
"If they try to go to college, try to go to law school, try to join the military, try to get a job, this stain stays on their record and I think it’s an injustice,” Myrick said.
Governor Cuomo has pushed to decriminalize private possession of small amounts of marijuana, threatening to block pay raises for legislators who don't support his plans. However, the Governor has stopped short of supporting outright legalization of marijuana.