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Assemblymembers Reilly & Tannousis introduce legislation to address shortsighted loophole created during rushed effort to legalize marijuana in New York

CONTACT: Peter Giunta, 347.621.8031

Assemblymembers Michael Reilly (R-Staten Island) and Michael Tannousis (R-Staten Island/South Brooklyn) announced this evening that they will partner to introduce legislation to address what they consider to be a shortsighted and rushed effort by the Democrat-led State Legislature to legalized adult-use marijuana in New York.  

Over the past weekend, Democrats in the Assembly and Senate introduced the “Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act” (MRTA) to legalize the possession, consumption, and sale of adult-use marijuana throughout the state.  Their legislation – A. 1248A in the Assembly and S. 854A in the Senate – was passed by both chambers late this evening.

Reilly and Tannousis believe that the State Legislature’s current proposal fails to deter individuals from driving-while-high, especially those who are under the age of 21.  The MRTA presents many issues, mainly the impact that it will have on traffic safety.  There is a great deal of concern that it will become virtually impossible to hold those who drive under the influence of marijuana criminally responsible, endangering both motorists and pedestrians. 

The Reilly-Tannousis legislation intends to close a loophole in the MRTA that enables drivers intoxicated by marijuana to evade prosecution.  This commonsense fix would amend sections 114-a and 1192-a of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law with the following provisions in bold:

  • Section 114-a of the vehicle and traffic law, as added by chapter 163 of the laws of 1973, is amended so that the term “drug” when used in this chapter means and includes any substance listed in section thirty-three hundred six of the public health law and cannabis and concentrated cannabis as defined in section 222.00 of the penal law, and any substance or combination of substances that impair, to any extent, physical or mental capabilities.

  • Section 1192-a of the vehicle and traffic law is amended to reflect that no person under the age of twenty-one shall operate a motor vehicle after having consumed alcohol, cannabis and or any substance or combination of substances that impair, to any extent, physical or mental abilities.

“After just three years in the State Legislature, I have learned that Albany Democrats are notorious for rushing to be ‘first in the nation’ instead of striving to be ‘best in the nation,’” said Reilly.  “While New York is far from the first to legalize adult-use marijuana, it does, however, shine a light on the rushed and sometimes careless pace at which legislation is considered as the budget deadline approaches.”

Reilly continued, “Do not be quick to dismiss this as a minor amendment.  This small change has the potential to save thousands of lives by deterring individuals from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.  If this fails as a deterrent, then our laws must allow prosecutors to pursue these cases the same as they would those that involve the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and especially if you commit this act while under the legal age of 21.”

“It doesn’t take an expert to see the glaring holes in the MRTA and that it was put together in a rushed and haphazard way,” said Tannousis.  “Our proposal is commonsense and even those who supported legalization should be able to get on board with what we are trying to do.  This legislation will close numerous loopholes that might be exploited by individuals trying to get away with driving under the influence of marijuana and will help our law enforcement maintain safe roadways.”

Assemblymember Michael Reilly is a former Lieutenant with the New York City Police Department and is the former President of Staten Island’s Community Education Council 31.  Assemblymember Michael Tannousis is a former criminal prosecutor who has served in both the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office where he successfully prosecuted serious felony cases involving violent crimes and drug sales.     

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