FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 12, 2021
CONTACT: Peter Giunta, 347.621.8031
Assemblymember Michael Reilly (R-Staten Island) shared information today about his successful effort to secure funding in the recently passed state budget that would provide law enforcement agencies throughout New York with specialized training given the state’s recent legalization of the possession, consumption, and eventual sale of adult-use marijuana.
Reilly, who voted against the “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act” (MRTA), has advocated these past several months for, what he considers to be, “responsible” legalization that would limit the impact it has on quality of life and public safety.
A major concern held by Reilly, and shared by many law enforcement leaders throughout the state, is the inevitability of individuals consuming marijuana either prior to or during their operation of a motor vehicle. Reilly identified a loophole in the MRTA that essentially allows those who drive-while-high to evade prosecution. He and another colleague have introduced legislation that would fix that loophole by amending parts of the state’s vehicle and traffic law.
Part of Reilly’s advocacy included a request for funding to be made available in the state budget that would aid state and local law enforcement agencies in allowing them to provide specialized training to their officers so that they could be designated as a “Drug Recognition Expert” within their agency. This specialized training, which has received national accreditation, would enable officers to detect impaired driving because of marijuana consumption and provide enhanced testimony to the court if required. It can be quite expensive to provide this training, which is why Reilly advocated heavily for funding to be made available through the state budget so that local law enforcement agencies or their respective municipalities would not get stuck with the bill.
During the final hours of state budget debate, it was revealed that Reilly’s advocacy led to additional funds being allocated toward the newly created Office of Cannabis Management, for a total of $46 million. A portion of these funds will benefit municipalities to help cover the cost of training “Drug Recognition Experts” through their primary law enforcement agency.
“When it became clear that the legalization of marijuana was going to happen during this year’s legislative session, I made a promise to my constituents that I would not sit this fight out on the sideline to simply vote “no” later,” said Reilly. “As a member of the Assembly Minority Conference, I knew that I would virtually have no role in the negotiation of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, but that didn’t stop me from making several attempts to share suggestions and express my concerns with the Governor or those in legislative leadership.”
He continued, “Of course, as a parent and a former member of law enforcement, I do not believe that marijuana should have been legalized. There are many aspects of the MRTA that frighten me, and I know many parents feel the same way. Understanding the political makeup of Albany, however, made me realize that no matter how I voted or how my constituents felt about legalization, this was going to happen. I took advantage of my time at almost every relevant budget hearing, as well as during several debates, to share my concerns about the hazards posed by marijuana-impaired driving. Many of my colleagues in the State Legislature are parents, and only a handful have a law enforcement background, but I believe this helped drive home many of the points I made regarding the importance of adequately training our law enforcement officers to handle this new and, quite frankly, challenging dynamic of their job. I am fortunate that, in the end, common sense prevailed, and that we were successful in securing this additional funding so that communities across the state can rest easy knowing that their law enforcement officers are trained to detect and prevent marijuana-impaired driving. Unlike in most budget negotiations, one side did not score a win over the other. Instead, this is a victory for all New Yorkers, from Staten Island to Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and beyond.”
Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon (D-Staten Island) provided the following quote:
“Although I, along with many of my fellow District Attorneys and law enforcement professionals, continue to have serious concerns about the impact that legalized recreational marijuana will have on the safety of our roads and the quality of life of our neighborhoods, we must now move forward to ensure the safest possible New York for all. Assemblymember Reilly’s dogged advocacy for additional funding to train Drug Recognition Experts means more specially trained law enforcement officers will patrol the streets of our borough to hold those who drive while high accountable for their selfish and reckless decisions, and I commend him for his successful efforts.”