Marijuana has been in the decriminalization process since 1973 with many states over the years passing laws to either authorize the use of marijuana or prohibit it. It is time to stop treating marijuana like a deadly drug, when science and public opinion agree that it is relatively safe for adult recreational and medical use. With recreational and medical marijuana on the verge of nationwide legalization, marijuana growers and dispensaries are popping up everywhere.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday appointed a panel to draft legislation that would legalize the use of marijuana by adults in the state. The governor’s panel will be made up of people with specialized knowledge of the issue, including experts in public health, public safety, and economics, and the leaders of relevant state agencies.
Gov. Cuomo tasked the group to engage both the State Senate and the State Assembly, cannabis advocates, and the sponsors of medical and regulated marijuana legislation to complete its work.
Once the workgroup drafts a bill, both houses of the state’s legislature would have to pass it and the governor would have to sign the measure for it to become law.
Multi-Agency Study Recommends Legalization
The governor cited the results a study he ordered earlier this year to explore the issue in his call for cannabis legalization. That review determined that the benefits of legalization outweigh the associated risks.
“I have reviewed the multi-agency report commissioned last January and have discussed its findings with Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker,” Gov. Cuomo said in a press release.
“The next steps must be taken thoughtfully and deliberately. As we work to implement the report’s recommendations through legislation, we must thoroughly consider all aspects of a regulated marijuana program, including its impact on public health, criminal justice, and State revenue, and mitigate any potential risks associated with it. I thank the members of the workgroup for their time and expertise as we work to craft a model program,” he added.
The New York State Department of Health (DOH) led the study to determine the health, economic, and criminal justice impacts of a regulated cannabis market. The study also considered the consequences to New York State resulting from legalization in surrounding states. The DOH issued its findings in a report released on July 13. The report concluded that the positive impact of a regulated cannabis market in New York State outweighs the potential negative aspects of legalization.
Report Lists Benefits of Legalization
Among its findings, the report determined that government oversight of the production, testing, labeling, distribution, and sale of marijuana would benefit public health. With legalization and the creation of a regulated cannabis market, the state would be able to license businesses, ensure quality control and consumer protection, and set age and quantity limits.
The report also noted that cannabis legalization would address racial disparities in cannabis law enforcement and reduce incarceration rates in the state.
Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David will oversee the efforts of the workgroup. David will work with members of the group to provide them with information and support and coordinate action with the executive branch and stakeholders in the issue.
‘No Insurmountable Obstacles’
Although the workgroup will have to tackle numerous complex issues in order to draft a legalization bill, the multi-agency report concluded that the legalization and regulation of cannabis is an achievable goal.
“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 report said. “No insurmountable obstacles to regulation of marijuana were raised,” the report said.