Sign reading "Welcome to Massachusetts" on the Massachusetts state line.

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New York’s medical marijuana program could be disrupted if voters in Massachusetts vote ‘yes’ on the ballot initiative to legalize cannabis for adult use, according to a report by NPR-affiliate WAMC. However, because the Massachusetts law could take up to two years for implementation, sweeping changes could be made to New York’s medical program that could prevent medical refugees from crossing state lines.

Chris Alexander, policy coordinator for the New York Drug Policy Alliance, suggests that once a Northeastern state moves toward legalization, it could have “a very significant change” in the way New York legislators tackle the issue.

“The Massachusetts border an hour away from Albany, and just the impact that that will have, the challenges that will come up from New York having to deal with interstate commerce and New Yorkers leaving the state to access recreational marijuana,” he said in the report. “So it gives legislators an opportunity to see firsthand how regulations can work. Massachusetts, in observing and studying legalization, sent some of their elected officials to Colorado. I think that’s something that we should do here as well.”

At least one sheriff, Rensselaer County’s Pat Russo who has jurisdiction over the state borders, indicated that he plans on increasing patrols on the county line and on the roadways between the two states.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who sponsored the state’s medical marijuana legislation, said that it’s only a matter of time until the New York legislature takes up adult-use cannabis legislation due to the support of the electorate, and if the Bay State initiative passes it “will help raise the visibility of the issue, raise the sense of it being achievable and help move the issue forward in New York.”    

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