Although months away, full legalization for recreational marijuana is likely in New York State. Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to make it a priority in this year's budget.
Now companies are eyeing Buffalo as a future powerhouse for the cannabis industry.
Marijuana is on an unstoppable march to legalization. A legal marijuana bill sits in both the state Assembly and Senate.
Cuomo said, "It's a false choice legalize marijuana or not, because we are there already."
Governor Cuomo says he wants the framework to be completed in this year's budget.
Cuomo's proposal, hundreds of pages in length is ready to be debated in Albany.
It would allow access only to those 21 and older. It would automatically seal marijuana offenses on criminal records, and generate what he said would be an estimated $300 million dollars in new tax revenues.
Now local investors like Brad Termini are banking on that. Termini said, "We've been making the rounds, and trying to garner a lot of support."
Termini is the man behind the $200 million dollar pot growing facility. Flora, set to take over the space near Buffalo's waterfront. He's hoping to change your perception of the pot industry as a whole.
Termini said, "We think if Western New York embraces this industry with its proximity to the Canadian Border, it can be a major economic development tool and a major job creator."
Termini is also making a lot of promises for Buffalo.
Flora claims they will create up to 1000 jobs with a focus on hiring Buffalo's minority population.
There's also a plan to team up with Roswell Park Cancer research, and partner with SUNY Erie for job training.
"We're not coming in and making promises in search of some special economic package or some special state subsidy. Other companies coming into Western New York are looking for that. All we are looking for is a permit to operate," Termini said.
Meanwhile, county health officials across the state say they are fundamentally opposed to recreational use of marijuana.
"We know that you can get addicted to marijuana. That's a known fact, even though people don't believe that."
But Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says she's not the decision maker about legalization.
She says if the policy is enacted county health leaders will call for certain safeguards
"In states where marijuana has been legalized, they've seen a much higher incidence of impaired driving and very serious motor vehicle accidents compared to states where marijuana has not been legalized for recreational use."
Meanwhile, Sheriffs from across the state including Western New York unanimously voted against Cuomo's proposal.
They say legal recreational marijuana use will lead to "an increase in drugged driving, traffic deaths, crime rates and use by kids."
They don't know how they would enforce it, or train staff to become D.R.E's or drug recognition experts:
"I don't know many agencies that can afford to have a full force of D.R.E's, some of the largest counties have 3 or 4. Again we have major concerns on what will be the fiscal impact," said Livingston County Sheriff Thomas Dougherty.
In 2017, the states that have had legalized marijuana the longest, Washington and Colorado, had nearly $320 million in tax revenue and $250 million in tax revenue, respectively.
More than five years after Colorado legalized marijuana, numbers show, young people are not smoking more pot than they used to, but organized crime is on the rise. The numbers for driving while high stayed the same since full legalization.
Termini says New York is one of the biggest illegal markets in the country, and since it's here, he wants residents to see the benefit of the industry.
"For Buffalo to take advantage of this opportunity to get involved in this high tech fast growing industry. To us this region could be a serious power house in the cannabis space."
Termini is submitting a final proposal about the project to the city of Buffalo this week.
After that, he says they will be shovel ready, just waiting on the "okay" from the state.
There are a series of community outreach meetings with Flora leaders where you can ask questions, those start this week.