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Major potholes on NY’s road to legal marijuana

As the Office of Cannabis Management prepares 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 has 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 children; how does that not hold up for weed products?

Similarly, city vape shops find they can sell edibles and other pot products — but face a crackdown if they sell cigarettes. Heck, some sell “magic mushroom” psilocybin bars, which aren’t legal at all.

Oh, and as of last month, the state is still trying to find a rational test for DUI marijuana. The available evidence suggests that legalizing weed leads to a 6% increase in injury car crashes and a 4% jump in fatal crashes.

New York can also expect to see new health problems: One new study found that airway inflammation and emphysema are more common in cannabis smokers than even cigarette smokers. “Marijuana is smoked unfiltered, as opposed to tobacco which is usually filtered,” one of the researchers explained to AFP.

Edibles don’t pose that problem – but do pose a greater risk of extreme intoxication, especially among children (who can’t use legally, but probably will anyway under the new laws).

Even vaping pot isn’t risk-free: Health officials began warning years ago that it led to increased cases of serious lung disease.

And of course, the expected bounty of taxes on legal pot remains uncertain, even if authorities succeed in cracking down on unlicensed shops: About two-thirds of the pot products consumed in California are still black market, and New York has lost millions for decades the cigarette black market.

The horse is out of the barn on this one, but it sure looks like a case of another landmark law that the Legislature will need to review. Are Empire State lawmakers capable of getting anything right the first time?

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