Report from NY health officials calls for marijuana legalization

Maricruz Casares
Julio 14, 2018

Not that there were any doubts where the agency would end up, but at least now it's official.

The 74-page analysis released Friday concludes that the benefits of legalization outweigh potential risks.

Cuomo is facing a primary challenge this year from former "Sex and the City" actress Cynthia Nixon, who has put the issue of legalization front and center in her campaign.

The broad findings of the report were expected: Health Commissioner Howard Zucker had previously said it would support legalization.

Initiated at the request of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, health officials reviewed the "health, criminal justice and public safety, economic, and educational impacts of a regulated marijuana program" in NY state.

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In addition to concluding that legalization would "address an important social justice issue", the report blames "overprosecution" on the Legislature for failing to heed the governor's call in 2012 to treat possession as a violation, not a misdemeanor. A regulated program, it states, "should include provisions to address the collateral consequences of prior criminal convictions for marijuana possession or use, such as barriers to housing and education".

Cuomo has always been wary of marijuana legalization, calling it a "gateway drug" as recently as previous year. "Any movement to legalize marijuana must also include broad record-clearing provisions, must create a diverse and inclusive industry, and guarantee significant community reinvestment to fix the harm that has been done".

The report also found that a regulated market would cut costs related to policing and prosecution and could deliver millions of dollars in tax revenue. Estimates range from $248 million to $678 million annually, depending on the rate of taxation and the price per ounce in a legal market.

The report is notable for its full-throated adoption of arguments that have been put forth by legalization supporters for years. It suggests that the greatest risks associated with marijuana use are due to the legal status of the drug, which has led to "more than 800,000 arrests for marijuana possession" in NY state in 20 years. Republicans, who control the state Senate, have long resisted the idea.

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