It seems the administration of New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has done an about turn. Cuomo, a Democrat who, until very recently, relentlessly referred to marijuana as a “gateway drug,” now has his Health Department to contend with, since it released a report on Friday stating that the “positive effects” of legalizing weed “outweigh the potential negative effects.”
“Numerous New York State agencies and subject matter experts in the fields of public health, mental health, substance use, public safety, transportation, and economics worked in developing this assessment,” the 75-page report says. “No insurmountable obstacles to regulation of marijuana were raised.” Every weed lover in the state is likely celebrating with a joint or several.
The document continued, “Regulation of marijuana benefits public health by enabling government oversight of the production, testing, labeling, distribution, and sale of marijuana. The creation of a regulated marijuana program would enable New York State to better control licensing, ensure quality control and consumer protection, and set age and quantity restrictions.”
Depending on usage and tax rates, the report estimates that legal pot sales could generate between $248.1 million and $677.7 million for the state in the first year of legalization. Back in January, Cuomo announced during his annual budget address that the state would conduct a study into legalizing pot. During a press conference on Friday, he said that the new report had not yet come under his review.
The release of this legalization-advocating state report is just the latest in a string of marijuana moves that the Cuomo administration has been making ever since actor Cynthia Nixon, who is currently campaigning against prohibition, announced an intent to challenge the incumbent in the primaries. As a result, Cuomo’s administration has been frantically making moves to maintain its voting base.
For example, on Thursday, the Health Department effected emergency rules to permit the use of medical marijuana for any condition that doctors would normally prescribe opioids. Just last week, the state Department of Financial Services and the governor succumbed to pressure and released guidelines to encourage banks to service businesses in the hemp and medical cannabis industries.
The Health Department’s new report states that legalization comes with the “potential for substantial tax revenue, which can be used to help support program initiatives in areas such as public health, education, transportation, research, law enforcement and workforce development.” It recognizes that prohibition has affected minorities and that ending it “will address this important social justice issue.”
Back in May, A Quinnipiac poll found 63 percent of New Yorkers and 71 percent of the state’s Democrats in favor of cannabis legalization. Around the same time, the Democratic Party of New York adopted a resolution that endorsed marijuana legalization at its convention. The statewide pressure to legalize comes shortly after announcing local cannabis reforms for enforcement in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, another Democrat, ordered the New York Police Department to stop arresting those caught smoking weed in public spaces, and multiple borough district attorneys said that they would stop prosecuting such cases. Thus far, however, de Blasio still refuses to support legalization himself, maintaining his anti-pot stance.
Meanwhile, both Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, New York’s two Democratic U.S. senators, favor the end of marijuana prohibition and are now sponsoring a congressional bill to remove federal hindrances to state reforms. Among the many bulleted points mentioned in the new report by the state Health Department are the following:
- Regulating cannabis lowers risks, improves quality control, and heightens consumer protections.
- Legalizing weed may reduce the over prescription of opioid drugs and overall opioid fatalities.
- The vast majority of credible evidence indicates that legalizing pot has no or minimal effect on youth usage rates.
- Legalizing cannabis results in less use of synthetic cannabinoids and novel psychoactive drugs.
- Pot prohibition has not curbed use in any way, despite the commitment of vast resources to enforce it.
- Banning weed causes disproportionate targeted and criminalization of certain ethnic and racial groups.
- There has been no increase in property crime or violent crime rates around medical cannabis dispensaries.
- Regulating marijuana could generate cost savings in the long-term.
- Legalizing and regulating cannabis will increase tax revenues.
- Legalization provides opportunities to educate consumers about marijuana and encourage them to use products that contain lower doses of THC.
The report is exceptionally promising for New York residents. Legalization appears imminent. New York will soon join nine other states that have legalized weed for recreational use already, and is but the next state to join the fast-growing momentum to decriminalize a plant many scientists deem the most important in the history of medicine.