Report from NY health officials calls for marijuana legalization

ALBANY, N.Y. — A report from New York state health officials is recommending the legalization of marijuana.

The 74-page analysis released Friday concludes that the benefits of legalization outweigh potential risks. It suggests the state could raise nearly $700 million in tax revenue off the drug, and that legalization won’t significantly increase rates of marijuana use by adults or teens.

The report predicts that legalizing marijuana could reduce opioid dependency while eliminating criminal penalties that disproportionately impact minorities.

“The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts. Areas that may be a cause for concern can be mitigated with regulation and proper use of public education that is tailored to address key populations,” the report says in conclusion. “Incorporating proper metrics and indicators will ensure rigorous and ongoing evaluation.”

It will now be up to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers to propose specific legalization proposals.

Cuomo has long expressed concerns about legalization, last year calling marijuana a “gateway drug.” But he has softened his stance amid pressure from legalization supporters, including his Democratic primary opponent, “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon.

Earlier this week, New York state announced that a new policy had already gone into effect allowing anyone prescribed an opioid to request medical marijuana instead.

More than 62,000 people signed up for the state’s medical marijuana program so far.

In June, New York City changed its marijuana law so that the majority of New Yorkers found smoking marijuana in public will receive a summons instead of being arrested. That new policy will go into effect by Sept. 1 and is expected to help reduce marijuana arrests by about 10,000 per year.