As the Office of Cannabis Management preps to award the first two dozen licenses to sell pot products on Monday, neighborhoods across the city are already plagued by shops selling the stuff without a license, another sign of the chaos created when the state legalized the possession and sale of marijuana without setting up a regulatory scheme.
Not that Albany lawmakers are the only ones confused: Westchester’s legislature is debating a ban on menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products — but not flavored cannabis products. Yet the main argument against flavored tobacco products is that they supposedly seduce kids; how does that not hold for weed products?
Similarly, city vape shops are finding that they can sell edibles and other pot products — but face a crackdown if they sell cigarettes. Heck, some sell “magic mushroom” psilocybin bars, which haven’t been legalized at all.
Oh, and as of last month the state’s still trying to find a rational test for DUI-marijuana. The available evidence suggests legalizing weed brings a 6% rise in car crashes with injuries and a 4% jump in fatal accidents.
New York can expect to see new health problems, too: One new study found that airway inflammation and emphysema are more common in cannabis smokers than even cigarette smokers. “Marijuana is smoked unfiltered, versus tobacco which is usually filtered,” one of the researchers explained to AFP.
Edibles don’t pose that problem — but bring higher risk of extreme intoxication, especially among kids (who can’t use legally but are sure to use anyway under the new laws).
Even vaping pot isn’t risk-free: Health officials started warning years ago that it’s led to rising cases of severe lung illness.
And of course the anticipated bounty from taxing legal pot remains uncertain, even if authorities manage to crack down on unlicensed shops: Around two-thirds of the pot products consumed in California are still black-market, and New York for decades has lost millions to the cigarette black market.
The horse is out of the barn on this one, but this sure looks like a case of another landmark law that the Legislature will need to revisit. Are Empire State lawmakers capable of getting anything right the first time?