Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti’s Statement Regarding Vote on Marijuana

Today, the New York State Assembly voted to legalize recreational marijuana for those 21 years and older. I considered the countless conversations, emails and phone calls I had on the issue, and in the end I voted in favor of this bill. It provides a solid framework for production and sale of cannabis, joining 14 other states and D.C., to advance social and economic equity.

Learning from other states that have already legalized adult-use marijuana, we voted on a comprehensive plan that helps protect public safety, advances racial justice, creates new small businesses, and weakens the illicit drug trade. The legislation will also help fund education, community reinvestment, drug treatment and public education, and training for law enforcement.

Several factors were important to me in my consideration of this vote - preservation of local zoning control was of them. Cities, towns, and villages can pass a local law to prohibit retail dispensaries within their jurisdiction, and should a municipality choose to opt out, a voter within the jurisdiction may petition to call for a referendum to opt back in.

The safety of our communities is also a top priority. This bill addresses those concerns by making sure safety measures are in place, particularly on our roads; and passengers will be prohibited from smoking or consuming marijuana in cars. Penalties for driving while impaired by drugs will apply equally to those impaired by marijuana.

This legislation would also severely cut down on the risks that are associated with the street market products including those containing dangerous chemicals with more clean and regulated products available to the consumer. We can’t ignore the fact that New Yorkers are already using marijuana. I believe it is dangerous to do nothing, so let’s regulate and make it safe.

Finally, many communities in our state have felt the negative consequences of the war on drugs for generations. Young people, many of them people of color, have suffered the stigma of conviction, with some imprisoned for years on minor marijuana charges - ruining lives and those of future generations.

For me, today was a vote for racial justice and social equity for all New Yorkers. 

I know this is an issue on which many may disagree. There will be some who do not support the position that I have chosen – and I respect their concerns. I want my constituents to always feel comfortable sharing their opinions and I will listen to all perspectives in a respectful and thoughtful way, while making an informed decision.