A drug-policy consultant will visit Buffalo on Tuesday to argue that New York should legalize recreational marijuana not simply because, in his view, the current system squanders police resources, targets certain minorities and fosters a dangerous, underground economy.
Legalizing marijuana, says Nicolas Eyle, can help counter the deadly opiate epidemic sweeping the nation because studies have shown people in medical-marijuana states will select pot over more dangerous drugs to relieve pain. He reasons that more people would reject opiates if marijuana were more widely available through legal means.
“If marijuana has been proven in states that have medical marijuana to counteract opioid use, then I don’t see why it wouldn’t be any different if people could buy it without a prescription,” Eyle told The Buffalo News in a recent interview. “If you could just go buy it, it would solve a lot of problems.”
Voters in eight states have allowed the recreational use of marijuana, setting aside studies showing that marijuana smoking poses long-term risks to the lungs, the immune system and memory. The eight include New York’s Northeast neighbors Massachusetts and Maine.
But at this point, the Empire State remains a long shot. Bills to legalize pot are not drawing a critical mass of support in the State Senate.
Still, Eyle and other advocates believe the day will come.