FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 20, 2023
ALBANY, NY — Assemblymember Michael Reilly (R,C-Staten Island) reacted to Governor Kathy Hochul’s recent announcement directing the New York State Police (NYSP) to work with local law enforcement officials in coordinating a statewide enforcement blitz against drug-impaired driving today, April 20, 2023. In popular culture, this date is commonly known as ‘420 Day’ or ‘International Weed Day.’
While supportive of the enforcement blitz, Reilly remains concerned over the lack of a field test to aid law enforcement in the detection of marijuana-impaired driving. No such test exists at this time and though there are several being developed by the private sector, none are near ready for wider field implementation. Even then, state law prohibits the odor of marijuana alone from being used as a way to identify drug-impaired driving.
In lieu of this, he is once again calling on Hochul and state legislative leaders to provide funding in this year’s budget to train additional Drug Enforcement Officers (DRE). In the FY21 state budget, Reilly successfully secured $10 million — on top of an existing $36 million that had already been committed by state lawmakers — to allow NYSP and local police agencies to train their officers on how to detect drug-impaired driving. This training, while costly, specializes officers so that they can not only identify the signs of drug-impaired driving in the field but also provide expert witness testimony at a trial against a defendant to ensure that the case against them can move forward.
Reilly is also renewing his call to close a loophole in the ‘Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act’ — which legalized the growth, sale, and use of marijuana in the state — that allows certain individuals operating a vehicle while drug-impaired to evade prosecution. His bill, A3138, would amend the Vehicle & Traffic Law, as well as the Penal Law, to classify the operation of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs by an individual under the age of 21 as a per-say offense. It is currently set to be heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee.
“Since the enactment of this law, New Yorkers have experienced firsthand its impact on the quality of life within their community. While some local governments have gone above and beyond to mitigate its impact, others, like New York City for example, have failed to act timely,” said Reilly, a former Lieutenant with the New York City Police Department. “Inaction has allowed the black market to surge over the past two years, which, when coupled with the increased distribution of unregulated marijuana, has led to a crisis of epic proportions. I realize that the law is here to stay, but there is always room for improvement and, generally, we should be making every effort possible to ensure that it is followed by the book.
He continued: “DREs remain the only reliable tool we have to address any of these concerns in part. Drug-impaired driving impacts every community, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation — my colleagues on both sides of the aisle surely understand this. But now we must put our words into action by ensuring that adequate funding for this vital training program is included in this year’s budget. Without it, we are simply kicking the can down the road and waiting for a tragedy to happen.”