"Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth."
― William Faulkner
Advocacy for drug and alcohol prevention is always an uphill battle. In 2013, prevention efforts in New York State will be essential and have significant impact in 2013. With the recent news from the Daily News that a Colorado-based marijuana company has hired influential lobbying firm Patricia Lynch Associates to push for marijuana legalization in New York State, the time is now for prevention advocates to work even harder. Those who support marijuana legalization have a ton of lobbying muscle, and we must do the same.
In Putnam County, we wrote a position paper on the legalization of medical marijuana and the overall message we intend to make is this: Medicine is always approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and marijuana should be no different. The fact is, marijuana will not be approved by the FDA because nothing smoked will ever pass red tape. Have people forgotten that smoking- and it doesn’t matter what you’re smoking- causes a variety of deathly and sometimes incurable diseases?
Our Putnam Coalition is pleased to see that both President Barack Obama and Governor Andrew Cuomo exercise caution and skepticism when it comes to legalization of marijuana both on the federal and state levels. The argument of it closing budget gaps may come at the cost of increased societal harms that will come from the legalization of any "medicine" not approved by the FDA (long term side effects, driving while ability impaired, increase in necessary treatment for those addicted to marijuana, etc).
Not only is the "natural" form of marijuana possibly going to be available to the public for "medical" purposes, but synthetic cannabinoids are another obstacle preventionists are having to face now and in the forseeable future. In March 2012, the New York State Health Department issued an Order for Summary Action banning the sale and distribution of synthetic cannabinoids. Violators of the new law can face civil penalties, but we need more teeth in this law. Luckily, it is also federally banned. We support and are pleased to see the New York State order, but the enforcement of the ban and ensuring the sale has completed stopped remains an issue. When a small packet of a synthetic item, such as Ocean Blue or Dragon Spice, gets the retailer an easy, quick, $20.00, enforcement is imperative.
In Putnam County, our youth and our residents who have gone through the criminal justice system were the ones that told us that many gas stations in Putnam were selling the synthetics. They were proved right when we did our own informal scans of the stations and convenience stores and found these packets right near the cashiers area, in colorful fun packaging, within reach of any child. Again, enforcement is key. And as we mentioned earlier, advocacy has proved to be the most important tool.
Without a collaborative effort from Coalitions, providers, media, community organizations, law enforcement and our government officials, synthetics would still be the growing issue it was in early 2012.
About the Contributing Blogger
Elaine Santos is the Coalition Coordinator of Putnam County Communities That Care Coalition. The mission of the Putnam County Communities That Care Coalition is to build a safe and healthy family-oriented community, which includes reducing the use of harmful substances by our adolescents. Our coalition includes individuals from all sectors of the community who work together to reduce risk factors and strengthen protective factors through education, enforcement and policy initiatives.