Legalizing marijuana concerns some businesses that already struggle to find enough ‘clean’ employees

Photo by Tom Rivers: Nathan Pace, moderator for the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Luncheon today, said a business leader told him he struggles to find enough skilled employees who can pass a drug test. Next to Pace include from left: State Assemblyman Michael Norris, State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, State Sen. Rob Ortt, George McNerney (field director for Congressman Chris Collins), Lynne Johnson (Orleans County Legislature chairwoman) and Sarah Clark (deputy state director for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand).

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 January 2019 at 8:18 pm

ALBION – A push by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to legalize recreational marijuana could add to businesses’ difficulties in finding enough workers who can pass a drug test.

That was a concern shared by officials during today’s Orleans County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon, which was attended by about 100 people at Tillman’s Village Inn.

Nathan Pace, moderator of the luncheon, said he spoke with a leader of manufacturing company in Erie County with hundreds of employees. That company does very sophisticated manufacturing and needs employees at their best.

However, Pace said the company and many others lose some employees due to failed drug tests.

“Businesses are hindered because they can’t find enough clean workers to pass drug tests,” Pace said.

The issue may be compounded if the state legalizes recreational marijuana, which Gov. Cuomo announced last month as a priority for him in 2019.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said many residents and families already are suffering from drug addiction. He doesn’t favor legalizing recreational marijuana use, believing it will only make the drug problem worse.

He asked the crowd how many support legalizing recreational marijuana. Four out of about 100 raised a hand in favor of the proposal.

Ken Pokalsky is vice president of the NYS Business Council, a group represents businesses throughout the state. He said there are concerns about legalizing recreational marijuana use, including the lack of an established standard for determining impairment. He expects the State Legislature will go along with the governor’s push.

“Recreational marijuana is coming,” Pokalsky said.

Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower said the community has stepped up efforts to assist people battling addictions. He praised GCASA for its expanded drug treatment programs, including at the County Jail.

The Orleans County Mental Health Department also is offering more assistance to residents fighting addictions.

The sheriff said the federal government has approved a grant for the jail to have a part-time rehab unit beginning on Jan. 30. That will help people fighting addiction to have a better transition out of the jail.

There also is a team of volunteers through Orleans – Recovery Hope Begins Here, a new organization that connects people struggling with drug addiction to local resources and mentors.

Bower said the mentors will be key in helping people to stave off their addiction.

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