The benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana use in New York outweigh potential negative effects, according to a new assessment released today by the state health department.
The report, which Governor Cuomo called for in January, states that regulating the drug benefits the public "by enabling government oversight of the production, testing, labeling, distribution and sale of marijuana." A regulated program would allow the state to better control licensing, consumer protection and set age and quantity restrictions, the assessment found.
The report also says New York would become one of the largest regulated marijuana markets in the country, and tax revenue would support state initiatives such as public health, education, transportation and law enforcement. The report cited Colorado, where marijuana sales generated $200 million in sales tax revenue and licensing fees in 2016.
In addition, the assessment states legalizing recreational marijuana can reduce legal and illegal use of opioids by easing access to marijuana for pain management. Currently, 13 health conditions qualify patients for medical marijuana in New York.
Dr. Laszlo Metchler, Director of the Cannabis Clinic at Dent Neurologic in Amherst, said that the legalization of marijuana could save hundreds of lives.
"We have 115 people dying on a daily basis from prescription drugs and the ones that can't get opioids turn to heroine. Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana may help that," Mechtler said.
The assessment also says the criminalization of marijuana has not curbed its use, which has remained mostly steady since 2002. New York's marijuana arrest rate of 535 arrests per 100,000 people was higher than any other state in 2010 and double the national average.
"Numerous NYS 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 report says. "No insurmountable obstacles to regulation of marijuana were raised."
The report has been submitted to Governor Cuomo for review.