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Leaders and businesses speak out on proposed marijuana legalization

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(WBNG) - Local leaders and organizations are speaking up after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his plans to push for the legalization of cannabis in New York State.

The plan came at Tuesday's State Budge Address for 2021, and a recent poll by Siena College shows 58 percent of New Yorkers are in favor of the legalization.

"I believe the budget is the opportunity, frankly, to make some tough decisions and work through tough issues that without the budget can often languish," Cuomo said via his address. "I suggest that we get it done in the budget."

Today, leaders and businesses shared their conflicting views on the proposed legalization.

Republican State Senator Fred Akshar told 12 News he has concerns regarding marijuana's future in the state, referencing public safety.

"In my humble opinion, that is the only way we should look at legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes is: how will that piece of policy impact the community from a public safety standpoint?," Akshar said. "We should not be looking at this issue based on what we think projected revenues will be."

Kaelan Castetter, the CEO of CSG Hemp, has been a long time proponent of hemp and marijuana both in the Southern Tier and the state, having closely worked with officials to plant a future for the product.

"This is culminate on the vision that assemblywoman Donna Lupardo had since creating the hemp program here, and creating a cannabis hub," Castetter said. "This is an industry that's going to bring manufacturing, innovation, high-paying jobs to the area."

But Castetter knows there's plenty of work to be done if a bill eventually passes.

"An industry doesn't just end with the passage of a bill, we need to continue to have regulations that effect the status of the marketplace, and also the changing needs for parts of New York State," Castetter said.

Cuomo is aiming to create a new Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the growth of marijuana.

"It is absolutely critical for this industry to be well-regulated," Castetter said. "There is a need for regulators who are constantly working with cannabis, with cannabis industry professionals and businesses and understand the regulations and can continue to update these regulations."

But for Akshar, he believes the focus should be elsewhere.

The proposed bill will also seek to coordinate all efforts with Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania for better transparency.

Cal Dymowski

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