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Cannabis Legalization Recommended by New York Department of Health

LegalizationCannabis Legalization Recommended by New York Department of Health of recreational cannabis in New York has become a hot topic over the last year, and the subject has notably surged as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon made it a cornerstone of her campaign. Support for legalization is at an all time high in the state, with a recent Quinnipiac University poll finding 63% of New York voters in favor, and only 32% opposed.

Current Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has in the past been an opponent of legalization, but recently seems to be changing his tune. His evolving stance on cannabis may in part be a response to the challenge from the left that Nixon is mounting against him in the Democratic gubernatorial primary race, but it may also be a reflection of a report recently released by the New York Department of Health which recommends legalization and regulation.

The report, which was originally announced by Cuomo back in January, sought to study the likely outcomes of legalization. It was a collaborative effort by “numerous NYS [New York State] agencies and subject matter experts in the fields of public health, mental health, substance use, public safety, transportation, and economics.” The findings of the study lean strongly in favor of legalization, while emphasizing the need for a robust and well-implemented regulatory system.

The most notable conclusions of the study include the following:

  • Legalization would benefit public health by allowing the state “to better control licensing, ensure quality control and consumer protection, and set age and quantity restrictions.”


  • In states that have legalized, there doesn’t appear to be an overall uptick in cannabis use. Experts involved in the study noted that states like Colorado and Washington experienced small increases in reported use following legalization, which leveled out over time. They suggest that factors such as tourism and increased honesty in self-reported use may be responsible for small increases that have been found.


  • With neighboring states like Massachusetts legalizing cannabis, it will be increasingly likely that diversion from those markets into New York will happen. In addition to criminal justice implications, this will result in revenue flowing out of New York as residents travel to other states to purchase cannabis.


  • Legalization would likely create a significant revenue stream for the state in the form of taxes, estimated to be between $248.1 million and $677.7 million during the first year.


  • Cannabis prohibition in New York hasn’t had a significant impact on rates of use, despite “commitment of significant law enforcement resources.”


  • Cannabis prohibition disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color, despite similar rates of use across racial and socioeconomic groups. Legalization would help reduce the racial disparities in criminalization and incarceration rates.


  • Cannabis has valuable medicinal benefits for treating problems such as pain, nausea, and epilepsy. Legalization appears to reduce both the number of opioid prescriptions written, and the number of opioid overdose deaths in states that have implemented it.


Cannabis Legalization Recommended by New York Department of Health