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Sheriff Virts opposes decriminalization of marijuana in New York

Don’t count Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts among those supporting the decriminalization of marijuana in New York.

Virts, president of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, testified at a state Assembly hearing in Binghamton last week that he opposes the potential legalization of marijuana in New York, which is expected to be proposed when the state Legislature convenes in January.

There is widespread support for the idea. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who opposed the idea of legalizing recreational use of the drug in the past, is among those who think it’s time for the laws to change.

A study by Quinnipiac University earlier this year indicated 63 percent of New Yorkers support “allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” That’s the most support the poll has ever found, said Quinnipiac researchers.

While support is increasing, Virts doesn’t seen any benefits to decriminalization.

“As you are no doubt aware, our nation, our state and our counties are in the midst of an opioid epidemic,” Virts testified. “The vast majority of the arrests that my office makes are drug-related, whether directly, such as for possession or dealing, or indirectly, such as crimes committed in order to fuel an addiction — burglary, robbery, assault and fraud — or crimes committed due to an altered state of mind caused by drugs.

“When so many of our friends and loved ones are battling substance abuse problems, it seems counter-intuitive to go in the opposite direction and legalize what is currently an illicit substance. It is my strong belief that legalization will result in an increase in the use of marijuana, and at the same time would trivialize its negative effects, which could lead to further, more serious drug use, especially for our youth.”

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