Medical Pot Must Be GOP Priority Why Be Wrong Again? By Nicholas Langworthy

I believe good policy makes good politics.

There are many issues state legislators must resolve in coming weeks. Lowering taxes, job creation, education — these critical issues are important as we work to make New York the Empire State once again.

One issue that has received a great deal of attention is medical marijuana.

Like many people, my first reaction was negative. I didn't want to see New York become a haven for the "weed on demand" crowd like California. We've all seen how anyone in Los Angeles can use a questionable injury as a reason to get pot. When I began investigating what's being proposed here, I discovered the Compassionate Care Act is not what I thought.

This legislation creates an effective, safe and highly regulated system called "seed to sale." It would track the plant, tightly regulate distribution, provide relief to seriously ill patients, generate tax revenue and create jobs.

We all know people who are suffering through terrible illnesses — cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and more. Why shouldn't our neighbors have the same options millions of families across the country have? And why should New Yorkers in pain be forced to rely upon dangerous narcotics — frighteningly potent pills that are often abused and can kill?

High taxes, burdensome regulations and more drive enough families away from New York. Access to safe and sensible medical solutions should not join that list.

Companies wanting to be involved in the industry would face a rigorous licensing process. Only the best of the best would be permitted to operate. Let's be honest, how many more opportunities will New York get to start an industry from scratch? Especially an industry led by out-of-state companies eager to come here, even without taxpayer giveaways.

We can do it safely and to help people. We can do it to put people to work and bring investment to upstate New York.

My job as a county party chairman is to promote issues and ideas that will help elect candidates and grow the party. Hopefully, those candidates support smart, common-sense policies to help turn this state around so families can stay together, and our children will not have to relocate to find jobs.

As Republicans, we can help make this happen. Already four GOP senators and a handful of GOP Assembly members have declared their support of the Compassionate Care Act. They deserve our thanks. It is the right thing to do.

This is an issue that will also help the country move forward. Mid-term elections are right around the corner, and the 2016 election cycle has already begun. Look at recent polls in critical states: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Iowa are all over 80 percent in favor of medical marijuana. This issue is no longer something we can pretend will only impact Democratic primary voters. As a party, we should take a leadership role.

Let's not be forced to play defense (again) on an issue supported by the vast majority of voters. I know this might not be easy for some of my colleagues to support. But I'm confident once they get the facts on what we are trying to do, they'll recognize the need to support the Compassionate Care Act. From Republican state party chair down to local party leaders, supporting the Compassionate Care Act should be a priority.

We can bring medical marijuana to New York safely. We can do it to help people who need relief. We can do it the right way, right now, for the right reasons. That's good policy — and great politics.


Nicholas A. Langworthy is chairman of the Erie County Republican Committee. This article first appeared in the Albany Times Union

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