Health Department Will Recommend New York Legalizes Recreational Marijuana, Local Expert Weighs In

Photo Credit: Andre Malok

The state health department is set to recommend to Governor Cuomo that the state should legalize recreational marijuana.

The decision comes after Cuomo said earlier this year, during his State of the State address, he would launch a task force to look into the impact legal marijuana would have on the state.

Speaking Monday, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker told reporters in an audio recording made available by his office,  “[The report found] the pros outweigh the cons.”

Dr. Zucker says he is still working on finalizing the report that would be delivered to Governor Cuomo, but he says it will recommend a regulated legal marijuana program be available for adults in the State  of New York. He said that report will be delivered, “soon.”

Not many details about what’s in that report have surfaced. The executive director of the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse would like to see those details before any decisions on this are made.

“It’s important for the public and community to find out what they are finding, knowing that they are doing the research,” Robin Mann said.

She has a lot of questions, including the long-term effect of legalizing recreational marijuana. She’d like to see exactly what the panel is finding, and then wants to make sure the public has time to weigh those findings.

“They talked about growing it,” she said. “Where will they grow it, how will they grow it? Let’s look to the other states that have already legalized, and see what truly what they are dealing with… what their communities are looking like.”

She said she wants to make sure this isn’t a knee-jerk reaction, and a decision NYS doesn’t end up regretting in the future.

Right now, bordering states including Massachusetts and Vermont have passed laws to legalize marijuana. But Dr. Zucker says this has less to do about what other states are doing and more about what we’ve learned about marijuana in recent years.

“This is no different than any medicine,” says Zucker. “When new facts come in, you have to look at the analysis and you have to figure out what kind of decision do you make at that point in time. So, we have new facts, we have new data and as a result of that we have made the decision to move forward.”

Medical marijuana is already legal in New York. Monday, officials said they would soon allow opioid users to qualify for medical marijuana.

It’s unclear on how the state will move forward with the recommendation. It’s obviously unlikely any legislation will be passed before the end of the legislative session on Wednesday. Dr. Zucker was unable to give a timeline as to when the report would be issued.

“Governor Cuomo called on the Department to assess the impact of a regulated marijuana program back in January,” said Dr. Zucker in a statement sent to media outlets. “At that time the Governor correctly pointed out that the facts have changed regarding this issue.  Our border states have already legalized marijuana or are in the process of doing so.  The report is being finalized, but it concludes the pros of a regulated program outweigh the cons.  The report also concludes that should a regulated program be implemented, special consideration will need to be given to a number of factors including the age of who can purchase marijuana, who can grow and distribute it, the location of dispensaries, and at what rate the product would be taxed.  The report raises a number of thoughtful questions and we look forward to delivering it for Governor Cuomo’s review.”