Although New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has spent the past few years arguing against the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, a new report from the state’s Health Department, which suggests, “The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative impacts,” may have changed his tune.
The report, which was commissioned by Cuomo back in January, recommends the state put an end to pot prohibition in a manner similar to nine other states and Washington D.C..
The 74-page study shows that New York could rake in around $700 million in tax revenue by imposing a taxed and regulated pot market. Contrary to Cuomo’s “gateway drug” theory, researchers also found no reason to suspect that legalization would bring about a significant increase in overall consumption rates. But it could, however, prevent the types of arrests that have been shown to disproportionately affect minorities.
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The report also shows that marijuana legalization might be in the best interest of public health, as it could patients an alternative to prescription medications, especially opioids.
Still, in order to make it work, the study suggests the development of a “well-thought-out” regulatory scheme that puts an emphasis on educating the public about the pros and cons of pot consumption.
“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 reads.
But will the report lead to change?
Governor Cuomo said last week that he plans to assemble a team to figure out how marijuana should be dealt with in the Empire State. Saying “the devil is in the details,” Cuomo voiced concerns about how marijuana would be sold – a topic that was not addressed in the report. Cuomo pointed to Massachusetts, which is on the verge of launching a recreational marijuana market, and New Jersey, a state that is working to legalize in the near future, as reasons that New York should take comparable action.
“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,” he said.
Cannabis advocates were pleased with the outcome of the report. They hope now that legislative controls will seriously consider bringing an end to decades of prohibition.
“Marijuana prohibition has devastated our communities, saddled hundreds of thousands with criminal records, acted as an easily accessible tool for racially biased policing, and stunted the opportunities for entire generations of mostly New Yorker’s of color,” Chris Alexander of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “Now that the report has been released and its conclusions presented, we are hopeful that the governor and the Legislature can shift from the ‘if’ to examining the ‘how’ to legalize marijuana.”