On Friday, July 13, New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker released a 75-page Marijuana Legalization Impact Assessment, which concluded: “the positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in [New York State] outweigh the potential negative impacts.”
Relying on findings from nine other legal-cannabis states as well as medical marijuana in 29 states, the assessment made about a dozen sweeping conclusions that advance the argument for cannabis regulation and taxation in New York. Among them:
“Marijuana has intrinsic health benefits and risks.”
“Marijuana regulation could generate long-term cost savings.”
“Regulating marijuana reduces risks and improves quality control and consumer protection.”
“Changes in overall patterns of use are not likely to be significant.”
“The majority of credible evidence suggests legalization of marijuana has no or minimal impact on use by youth.”
“There has been no increase in violent crime or property crime rates around medical marijuana dispensaries.”
“Marijuana may reduce opioid deaths and opioid prescribing.”
“There is little evidence that marijuana use is significantly or causally associated with more common mental illnesses (such as mild-to-moderate depression or anxiety) or other adverse outcomes (such as suicide) in the general population.”
New York has almost 60,000 patients enrolled in its medical marijuana program who so far have experienced just 27 reported adverse effects and no reported deaths, Zucker found.
The assessment, ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will act as a known set of facts lawmakers can draw upon during a potential 2019 legalization drive in the state Legislature, said Chris Alexander, policy coordinator for the New York office of the Drug Policy Alliance. They worked to pass decriminalization as well as medical marijuana measures in New York.
“It refutes misinformation about what’s happening in other legal states with regard to underage use, traffic fatalities, mental health impacts, and all that stuff. The report is going to make sure when we get to the point where we’re ready to talk about this, we have the same facts,” he said.
The assessment found New York State might have a $3.5 billion cannabis underground market. Legalizing the botanical drug could generate anywhere from $248 million to $667 million per year in tax revenue, it concluded.
According to Chris Alexander, legalizing cannabis in New York within a year is looking more and more realistic.