New York: Health Commissioner Advocates For Adult Use Legalization, Medical Cannabis Expansion

New York, NY: State health commissioner Howard Zucker announced on Monday that a forthcoming report by his office will recommend lawmakers legalize and regulate the possession and sale of marijuana by adults.

Speaking at a press conference, he announced that the Health Department has concluded that “a regulated, legal marijuana program [ought to] be available to adults in the state.” He added, “We looked at the pros, we looked at the cons, and when were done, we realized that the pros outweighed the cons. We have new facts.”

A finalized version of the report is anticipated to be released in the near future.

Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, who commissioned the report, has historically been reluctant to publicly support calls to regulate the adult marijuana use market – stating that he is “unconvinced” that legalizing is a preferable public policy to criminalization. The health commissioner’s statements come just weeks after an analysis prepared by the New York City Comptroller’s office concluded that the state of New York would gain an estimated $434 million annually in new tax revenue under a regulated adult use marijuana market.

The commissioner also announced Monday that the Department has taken steps to immediately expand the state’s medical cannabis program so that those seeking to use marijuana as an alternative to opioids may be eligible to participate.

According to data published in May, patients enrolled in New York state’s medical cannabis program reduce their use of opioids and spend less money on prescription medications. The study’s findings are similar to those reported among enrollees in other states’ medical cannabis programs, including the experiences of patients in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and elsewhere.

Also this week, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that police would, under certain circumstances, begin issuing summons rather than making arrests for offenses involving the public possession or use of marijuana. The policy change will go into effect in September. In 2016, city police made an estimated 18,000 arrests for the possession of marijuana “open to public view;” 86 percent of those arrested were either Black or Hispanic.

For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.