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Washington, Colorado… New York? Legalization Of Marijuana Stirs Debate

Packages of medical marijuana in Israel (file / credit: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Packages of medical marijuana in Israel (file / credit: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

DENVER (CBSNewYork/AP) — Marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington state could lead to big profits for people in the pot business, but industry entrepreneurs have plenty of questions about the recent votes.

The National Marijuana Business Conference convened in Denver Thursday, less than 48 hours after voters in Colorado approved marijuana for recreational use. Washington state also voted to make the drug legal.

Business owners and others in the industry planned two days of lectures and discussion about what the ballot measures mean for businesses. Discussions include navigating regulations and banking restrictions, along with tips for handling federal drug raids.

Speakers include the head of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. The project was the biggest funder of recent legalization campaigns in the two states.

Massachusetts also passed medical marijuana laws on election day, the 18th state to do so.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana in public back in June. The move was designed to counter a loophole that considers possession of under 25 grams of marijuana a violation – punishable by a ticket – and possessing it in public, which is a misdemeanor. Under stop-and-frisk, a police officer could ask a person to turn out their pockets, and if they had marijuana in them, by exposing it while complying with the officer, they could be arrested – and get a police record.

Cuomo’s proposed legislation was effectively killed by state Senate majority leader Dean Skelos, who said “Being able to just walk around with 10 joints in each ear and only being a violation, I think that’s wrong,”

“If the question is emptying out your pockets and that becoming a misdemeanor, then I think we can work on it,” Skelos added.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and district attorneys from the five boroughs all endorsed Cuomo’s proposal.

Do you think New York should follow Washington and Colorado and legalize recreational use of marijuana? Sound off in our comments section below.

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