News, Culture & Society

New York health officials say recreational marijuana should be LEGAL

New York’s Department of Health has endorsed legalizing recreational use of marijuana in a highly-anticipated report about the drug’s harms and benefits. 

The report, published on Friday morning, finds that ‘positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts’.

Currently, marijuana is only permitted for medical use in New York – though New York City’s mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered police to stop arresting people for smoking it, and to issue a warning instead. 

A move to legalize the drug state-wide would add weight to the cannabis industry’s bid to operate freely nationwide – and would be something of a jackpot for New York. 

The underground marijuana market of New York is one of the most lucrative of any state in America, racking up as much as $3.5 billion from the 300 tons of weed sold each year. Were the state to legalize, that could translate into $677.7 million in taxes from the 10 percent of residents who already use it illegally – and likely some more. 

The report commissioned by Andrew Cuomo found the drug does induce laziness, may damage the lungs and may exacerbate mental illnesses, but that the benefits outweigh the harms

After the report’s release, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who commissioned it in January, announced that he would be pulling together a committee to work out who recreational legalization could work. 

Beyond the tax incentive, Cuomo faces political pressure: his challenger for the governship, Cynthia Nixon, has won legions of fans for her support of legal marijuana. 

Meanwhile, New York’s neighbor Massachusetts is about to open retail stores almost two years after voting to legalize recreational use of the drug. New Jersey is also mulling legalization.

‘Those are our two border states,’ Cuomo said on Friday, according to the New York Daily News. 

‘You have more control and there’s a possibility for revenue when you regulate it and in this context, where you have New Jersey and Massachusetts legalizing it, it’s not really an option of preventing it because you can go over a bridge and over a border.’ 

The 74-page report sought to weigh up the scientific research on marijuana – no easy task given the restrictions on testing cannabis in a lab setting, which means legalization is moving far faster than science. 

Thirty states have already legalized marijuana for medical use as public opinion of the drug becomes increasingly positive, with Oklahoma and Utah joining

Thirty states have already legalized marijuana for medical use as public opinion of the drug becomes increasingly positive, with Oklahoma and Utah joining

What they could find, according to the report, is that legalization would not significantly increase the rate of marijuana use among adults and teenagers, but it would lower the amount of petty crimes charges which needlessly consume police time. 

It did find that marijuana is damaging to the lungs, makes users lazy, and can exacerbate mental illnesses, but that the benefits outweighed those harms.  

There should be some restrictions, they said. 

‘It is imperative that a regulated marijuana program contain all necessary safeguards and measures to limit access for individuals under 21, minimize impaired driving, provide education and tailored messaging to different populations, and connect people to treatment if needed,’ the report said.