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Rockville Centre village trustee: ‘Resist the fad’ of legalizing marijuana

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“This idea of recreational marijuana and legalizing it for fun is probably the worst and most destructive legislative proposal to come out of Albany in a generation,” trustee Michael Sepe said at Rockville Centre’s village board meeting on March 4.

Sepe, who noted that his fellow board members also oppose legalizing pot in New York, took time during the meeting to share his personal thoughts on the matter. He said the issue is one in which “reasonable people and smart people can disagree,” but noted that those in favor seem to be more interested in personal freedom than the welfare of the community.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last December that he would seek to legalize and tax marijuana this year. New York would become the 11th state to allow adults to smoke marijuana for recreational purposes. (The consumption of medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2014.)

Sepe said that Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012, has seen an increase in traffic-related deaths due to driving under the influence of marijuana. According to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a collaboration of drug enforcement agencies, the percentage of fatal crashes in which drivers had marijuana in their systems jumped from 10 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2014, and one in four drivers tested after traffic deaths were positive for marijuana.

Though Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed an option for cities and counties with more than 100,000 residents to opt out of a statewide program to legalize recreational marijuana in January, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said at a meeting with Rockville Centre school administrators earlier this month that state negotiations at the time would not allow for counties to opt out. Instead, only smaller municipalities, like towns and villages, would be given that chance.

Currently, the village’s zoning code prohibits head shops — a store specializing in cannabis or tobacco paraphernalia. In addition, local organizations, such as the Rockville Centre Coalition for Youth and the school district, have publicly opposed the legalization of marijuana.

“Coming from one of the people that thought this was more or less a lost cause, I’m really glad to see the size of the resistance,” Sepe said, reminding those against it to continue urging their elected representatives to “resist the fad, to make a decision based upon the facts and to find the courage to say no.”