Is is high time for new marijuana laws?
Are the pungent winds of change wafting into New York, carrying a new momentum for loosening marijuana laws?
Support has increased substantially, said Gabriel Sayegh, a New York director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which is pushing for reform of pot laws. The time for broader discussion of these issues is finally here
For Kenia Rodriguez, 21, of Brooklyn, the answer is clear.
People do it regardless, so the government might as well legalize it, she said.
With 13 states approving medical marijuana and bills pending in five more - includingNew York - many legalization advocates say these are heady days. In fact, a national poll shows close to half of adult Americans are open to legalizing pot altogether.
Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) co-authored a bill that would reduce federal penalties for possession. And with a drug war raging in Mexico, state budgets in crisis and a president who said, Yes - I inhaled arguments to legalize the drug are gaining traction.
In New York, the assembly has twice passed bills to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes and one is currently pending in both chambers, though the chaos in the senate may imperil its chances this year.
There is overwhelming public support for medical marijuana, said Assemb. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), a co-sponsor of the current bill and author of the 1977 law that decriminalized possession of less than 25 grams. I think it is long overdue for New York law to catch up with the people and with medical science.
A spokesman for Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, the head of the states DA association, is open to discussion on the medical marijuana bill co-sponsored by state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island).
Both Savino and Gottfried also said they are open to dropping restrictions against recreational marijuana use, although Gottfried said such legalization is not now on the agenda in New York.
According to estimates by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron, legalization of marijuana could save the country at least $7.7 billion in law enforcement costs and generate more than $6 billion in revenue if it were taxed like cigarettes and alcohol.
Of course, not everyone is in favor.
We think it's the wrong message to send our youth, said Russell Laine, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Drug Enforcement Administration remains opposed, saying in one document that it would "create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior, and drugged drivers."
Nicole Wilson, 20, of Brooklyn, had her own reasons for opposing it.
It shouldn't be legal because it makes people do stupid things, she said.