By Valli Herman
Concluding that good outcomes are more likely than bad ones, the state of New York took an important step toward creating a legal and regulated adult-use marijuana market, potentially the country’s largest.
New York Commissioner of Health Howard A. Zucker on Friday, July 13, 2018, presented a 75-page report, “Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State,” which concluded that “the positive effects of regulating an adult (21 and over) marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts.”
New York state agencies and experts in public health, mental health, substance use, public safety, transportation, and economics determined that, “No insurmountable obstacles to regulation of marijuana were raised.”
The experts looked at specific impacts through a lens of harm reduction “to help ensure consumer and industry safety” and other public benefits. The authors also wrote that, given decades of anti-drug propaganda, “Legalization will allow for a more honest and trustworthy discussion.”
A legal market also could provide a substantial boost to state coffers. Using estimated sales prices and tax rates, the experts determined that legal marijuana potentially could raise between $248 million to $677 million in total tax revenue in the first year of legalization. That amount could be used “to help support program initiatives in areas such as public health, education, transportation, research, law enforcement and workforce development. Tax revenues can also support health care and employment.”
Other key findings include:
- Regulating marijuana reduces risks and improves quality control and consumer protection.
- Marijuana may reduce opioid deaths and opioid prescriptions.
- Marijuana has intrinsic health benefits and risks.
- The negative health consequences of marijuana have been found to be lower than those associated with alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs including heroin and cocaine.
- Marijuana can have effects on mental health.
- Changes in overall patterns of use are not likely to be significant.
- The majority of credible evidence suggests legalization of marijuana has no or minimal impact on use by youth. Criminalization in the U.S. has not curbed teen use.
- Marijuana prohibition results in disproportionate criminalization of certain racial and ethnic groups.
- There has been no increase in violent crime or property crime rates around medical marijuana dispensaries.
In 2014, Cuomo signed the state’s Medical Marijuana Program, with almost 1,700 registered providers and 59,653 certified patients. In 2017, Cuomo called marijuana “a gateway drug,” but has gradually softened his stance. In January 2018, the Cuomo administration launched the study about the plausibility of legalizing adult-use marijuana.
The two-term incumbent governor is seeking reelection against opponents who favor legalization, including Democratic challenger and actress Cynthia Nixon — who launched a sweepstakes in support of legalization — and Republican Marc Molinaro.