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Laura Curran creates legal marijuana task force


Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Jan. 10 announced the formation of a task force to study the impact legal recreational marijuana might have on the county. Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and County Legislator Joshua Lafazan, an independent from Woodbury who caucuses with Democrats, will lead the task force.

“As county executive, my first priority is ensuring the safety and health of our residents,” Curran said. “This will be a challenge, but it will also be an opportunity … for Nassau County to lead the way in New York state to promote new business opportunities and utilize new tax revenue for our residents.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 17 said he would seek to legalize and tax recreational marijuana. Further details on his proposal were to be revealed during his state of the State address, scheduled for Jan. 15. “No matter how you feel about this issue, and what it means, we can all agree that we need to be prepared because it is coming,” Curran said.

The task force will be comprised of experts in the fields of health, business, law enforcement, faith and more. Members will look at potential legislation to address concerns related to legal marijuana, identify training needs for police officers, potential health protocols and ways to use tax revenue generated from sales.

“In 35 years of law enforcement, I never thought this day would come,” Ryder said. “And when it does we have to be prepared.” He added police officers would need to be trained on how to spot drivers who are high behind the wheel.

Lafazan said he, too, is concerned with the potential of people driving under the influence of marijuana. “My generation understands that you do not drive drunk,” he said. “What my generation egregiously misses is that you do not drive high.” He said he would support strict penalties to act as a deterrent.

In Colorado, where pot was legalized in 2012, the percentage of fatal crashes in which drivers had marijuana in their systems jumped from 10 percent in 2009 to 19.26 percent in 2014. One in four drivers tested positive for marijuana after a traffic death.

Lafazan’s other ideas include banning the smoking of pot at Nassau County Community College, Nassau Coliseum and public buildings and parks, and only allowing dispensaries in locations far away from schools and houses of worship.

The other members of the task force are:

Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, Department of Health commissioner;

Francesca Carlow, president of the Nassau Council Chambers of Commerce;

Gisselle Campbell-Ham, assistant principal of Freeport High School;

Ralph Ekstrand, mayor of Farmingdale Village;

Bishop Lionel Harvey, First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury; and

Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, president of Family and Children’s Association.

New York would become the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. The county task force will seek to base its findings off the experience of states that have already legalized it.