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The New York State Department Of Health Endorses Legalized Recreational Marijuana

By Roger Malespin  Photo/istock/Blablo101

In what can be considered nothing less that huge news for the legalization movement, the New York State Department of Health just released an extensive report in which they conclude the benefits of legal recreational marijuana outweigh the risks and negatives. Among the benefits, the report cited massive tax revenue,  more quality control, and the success of medical marijuana programs across the country. 

Considering the mayor of NYC Bill De Blasio, the 2018 gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, and even the once opposed Governor Andrew Cuomo have all endorsed recreational marijuana, the NYSDOH report could be the tipping point that moves state lawmakers in Albany to finally pass true recreational reform laws in New York.

As longtime legalization advocates will no doubt notice, many of the points brought up in the report are what the cannabis community have known for years. 

First, despite decades of hard line legal action against marijuana, there has been no reduction in use in New York State. That means the market for recreational marijuana is huge. One on ten New Yorkers have used it in the last month, and nationwide estimates are at 44 percent. The war on drugs has not reduced usage at all and has given untold billions to the illegal market instead.

Secondly, New York can benefit from the recreational market more than almost any other state. Only California would likely surpass it in terms of users, which would turn out to be billions of dollars a year in sales tax that can be allocated to areas that sorely need it like education and infrastructure. 

The social implications and effects are not lost on the department either, as they acknowledged the devastating effect of cannabis prohibition on minority communities. “Marijuana criminalization has had a profound impact on minority communities and led to disproportionate targeting of certain populations for prosecution. Legalization would address this important social justice issue,” the report states.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, previously an opponent of legalized recreational marijuana use, has changed his position. In his January budget address, he ordered a study of the potential health, public safety and economic impact of legalization. The report said  that impact of legalization in surrounding states (Vermont and Massachusetts, and possibly soon New Jersey, plus Canada) has brought the question to a head. “It has become less a question of whether to legalize but how to do so responsibly,” the report says. 

What we are seeing in states like Colorado and California seems to be speeding up some of the state decriminalization laws around the country. The issue of legal cannabis was so hands-off only a short time ago, that despite its many supports, very few would come forward at the risk of political suicide. But when other states legalize it as well as implement a safe and transparent industry that benefits everyone, more states are quickly following suit. The gears are well in motion for the prospect of legalized recreational marijuana in New York, and with the opposition noticeably quiet after the NYSDOH report, it will be interesting to see how the issue plays out in Albany