Legalizing and regulating marijuana in New York now has the backing of the state Department of Health.
A report released by the health department on Friday states that the benefits of legalizing adult recreational use of the drug outweigh the potential negative effects. The report comes roughly six months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked DOH to conduct a thorough assessment of the impacts marijuana legalization could have on the state.
The agency cited various health and tax revenue benefits, as well as a reduction in the disproportionate criminalization and incarceration rates in communities of color, in the assessment’s conclusion.
Officials took a public health approach in their examination, according to state Department of Health Commissioner Howard A. Zucker, interviewing members of various state agencies related to health, public safety, criminal justice, education and economics. Also taken into account was the impact regulated recreational marijuana programs have had in other states.
“This is particularly important because the status quo in NYS is changing as the state shares borders with some jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana and some that are likely to legalize soon,” the report says.
The report also warned of some hurdles that need to be cleared if lawmakers decide to take legislative action, mainly with regard to implementing regulatory standards and testing. Currently, there is only one lab that handles testing for the state’s medical marijuana program.
In order for recreational use of marijuana to become legal in New York, the legislature would have to pass legislation and Cuomo would need to sign it.
Cuomo, who signed the state’s medical marijuana program into law in 2014, has held a relatively conservative view of legalizing recreational use of the drug. If he voices support for the report, it would signal a hefty policy shift. It also would put him on the same page as gubernatorial challenger Cynthia Nixon, who has expressed support for legalizing marijuana if she’s elected.
In June, Cuomo’s office said it would review the report when it’s released, but didn’t comment further about the governor’s stance.