Joe Lentol, age 75, is high on legalizing marijuana

Greenpoint Assemblymember, in office since 1973, backs recreational pot law

May 1, 2018 By Gersh Kuntzman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Prosecutions for low-level marijuana possession are way down in Brooklyn in the first four months of 2019, compared to a year ago. AP Photo/Josh
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Since before most of you were born, Joe Lentol has roamed the hallways of the State Capitol, representing the good people of Greenpoint since (hold onto your ballot) 1973. Now a lion of the Assembly, Lentol, 75, wants one of his legacies to be legalized marijuana in the state of New York, where currently, only medical pot is allowed. The Brooklyn Eagle reached out to Lentol to comment on whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo should create a public referendum or try to legalize marijuana through the legislature. Lentol chatted with editor Gersh Kuntzman last week. The following has been edited for clarity and space.

Gersh Kuntzman: Assemblyman, I’m hearing that the governor wants to put a legalized pot referendum before voters. What do you think?

Joe Lentol: A referendum requires passage of a resolution by two consecutive legislatures before it can go to the voters. To me, that would take too long. We should legalize it.

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GK: Just like that? I don’t hear a lot of 75-year-old guys calling for legal marijuana, so tell me more.

JL: What’s happening now is the criminal justice system discriminates against people, mostly minorities, who get caught in a web of smoking marijuana. Even though we decriminalized marijuana, local district attorneys can still go after users, but its disproportionately minorities. But  there seems to be less danger from smoking marijuana than from drinking alcohol. And if you consider the medicinal effects of marijuana, it’s much safer than opioids or alcohol. So if they have a toke now and again, what’s the harm? Let’s have a law and let’s have marijuana regulated. I don’t think it will harm people. We already have laws that make it illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, so we can keep enforcing those.

GK: Do you think it could pass the Assembly?

JL: Definitely. The majority favors legalization.

GK: Let’s be clear, Assemblyman: Do you ever smoke pot? And I’ll remind you, you can completely admit it.

JL: I never smoked it. And I never even inhaled it. But I have a feeling it’s OK. Other states have legalized it, but none of them have changed their mind on it. We should legalize it, too.

Where do you stand on legal recreational pot? Send us an email to [email protected].


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