Gov. Cuomo budget proposal includes study on legalizing marijuana

Originally posted on News12 Long Island

WOODBURY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal includes funding for a study on legalizing recreational marijuana.

“This is an important topic…and it would be nice to have some facts in the middle of the debate,” the governor said.

Gov. Cuomo’s call to examine the costs, benefits and legal risks of legalizing cannabis marks a reversal of his position. Last February, the governor said, “It’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true. There’s two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana.”

Doug Greene, of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, applauds the new move but believes it’s just talk.

“What we know he’s serious about is getting re-elected, and this is a good political move on his part to try and make it seem he’s addressing the issue,” says Greene.

Greene and other critics say Cuomo’s decision to consider the legalization of marijuana is likely driven by public opinion and fiscal pressure. Last November, a poll from Emerson College found taxing sales on legal marijuana was a far more popular way of closing the state’s budget deficit than raising taxes.

Health experts, including drug abuse counselor Steve Chassman, LCSW, CASAC (Email), say the fiscal benefits are not worth the public health risks.

“All the people who came in [the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence], they didn’t start with heroin, they started with alcohol and marijuana, 100 percent of the time,” says Chassman.

The governor says a big consideration in calling for the study is that neighboring states have legalized or are in the process of legalizing recreational marijuana. In total, eight states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana.

Cuomo says he wants the Department of Health to work with New York State Police and other agencies to study the issue.


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