New York’s Health Department Plans to Recommend Legalizing Marijuana

The Health Department is finalizing regulations to allow prescription opioid users to qualify for NY's MMJ program.

A study commissioned by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will recommend that “a regulated, legal marijuana program be available to adults in the state,” Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner said on Monday.

Cuomo, who last year called cannabis a “gateway drug,” has come under intense pressure lately as he faces off with the popular Cynthia Nixon for the Democratic gubernatorial primaries scheduled for September 13. Nixon framed the idea of legalized marijuana as a criminal justice reform.

Mayor Cuomo has said that “facts have changed” around cannabis (they have?) and therefore commissioned a report in January to look at New Jersey and Massachusetts’ legalization programs.

“We looked at the pros, we looked at the cons, and when were done, we realized that the pros outweighed the cons,” Mr. Zucker said, reported the New York Times.

Zucker said the report, which has not been released, brought together “experts from all across the government,” as well as “outside stakeholders” with interest in public safety, public health, and economics, including taxation.

Zucker said the Health Department was finalizing regulations to allow those using prescription opioids to qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program.

Meanwhile, Cynthia Nixon’s campaign seized on the news of the long-awaited report as a sign of Cuomo’s reactive response and nervous efforts to appease voters on the left who are leaning toward Nixon for governor.

Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for Ms. Nixon’s campaign, said “it shouldn’t have taken Cuomo eight years” and a challenge from Ms. Nixon “to understand the ‘facts have changed.’”

Cynthia Nixon has also called for expunging people’s records of marijuana-related offenses.

She has said that smoking marijuana is “something that white people do with impunity,” while members of minority groups are disproportionately arrested and tried for possession and other drug crimes.

“Arresting people–particularly people of color–for cannabis is the crown jewel in the racist war on drugs and we must pluck it down,” Nixon said. “We must expunge people’s records; we must get people out of prison.”

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