Julie Killian, second from right in front, was among the concerned New Yorkers at a SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) rally outside Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ Yonkers office on March 20.
Photo courtesy of Smart Approaches to Marijuana New York
One Woman’s Mission to Stop Legalization of Marijuana
By Robin Jovanovich and Tom McDermott
While ten states as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational marijuana and many in New York State are pushing to follow suit, Julie Killian, co-founder of RyeACT, a federally-funded local anti-drug coalition, is cautioning elected officials, from the governor’s office on down, to consider the facts.
The former Rye City Councilwoman recently made her case at a state budget meeting. “Proponents of legalization are ignoring the proven science, the experiences of other states, the environmental impacts, and the advice of doctors, first responders, and substance abuse professionals.” She added that drug treatment providers report that nearly every one of their patients started with marijuana. “You can’t get into a rehab facility for marijuana; they are all filled with opioid addicts.”
In two interviews with the paper, Killian, the mother of five, emphasized that there are three distinct parts to any discussion about marijuana: medical, criminal, and legal.
The product available today is not the “Woodstock weed” of previous generations; it’s ten times more potent. And youth are now vaping marijuana that is 99% stronger. “The levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active ingredient in cannabis, are higher, dangerously higher than studies show, and many studies have shown their serious impact on the brain. Most users do not know what they are ingesting.”
Five years ago, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved legalizing marijuana, but the popularity of the plan has waned for a number of reasons, Killian explained. “On the social justice side, they are arresting more minority kids for possession. Pot shops are in minority neighborhoods. Crime has risen in Colorado, as has the addicted homeless population. Legalizing marijuana raises auto insurance rates. More importantly, drug driving, which is underreported, has driven up traffic fatalities.”
According to Killian, the revenues from legalization in Colorado haven’t gone, as promised, toward education. And the prison population hasn’t declined either.
While legalizing marijuana leads to commercialization and needed income for state budgets, Killian reminds listeners that these industries are profiting from addiction. “The medical evidence is clear that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to further drug use. As we are fighting against an opioid epidemic, do we want to legalize marijuana? How do you tell your kids that it’s harmful if it’s legalized?”
For those thinking that growing marijuana doesn’t have environmental impact, think again, said Killian. “It requires an enormous amount of water to grow. And pesticides are being used to prevent the fungus that commonly grows with it. The bigger the business, the less organic its growth. If grown indoors, it requires a lot of energy, too.”
The cost of legalization for municipalities is high, said Killian. “The State will take most of the revenue and that revenue won’t be returned to the communities. Westchester would need to beef up its County Health Department and we would need hundreds more law enforcement officers.”
Killian’s immediate goal is to get elected officials to press pause on legalization. “Decriminalization, not legalization is the answer. The impact of illegal marijuana on minority communities is disproportionate.”
She also feels strongly that the State needs to hear from drug experts, “not the current rogue group of doctors working as consultants” who perform State studies.
“Legalizing marijuana is not a big win for anyone,” she concluded.