New York

New York's Department of Health Recommends Legalizing Marijuana

The positives of legalizing weed would outweigh the negatives, a study found.


Stanimir Stoev/

New York's Department of Health (DOH) has recommended that the state legalize marijuana for recreational use.

In a 74-page report commissioned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and published Friday, health officials insisted that the "positive effects of a regulated marijuana market" would "outweigh the potential negative impacts." Though the study cited many reasons, the two biggest ones had to do with the potential economic benefits and the effect legalization would have on the criminal justice system.

The report noted that New York could collect up to $677.7 million a year in state and local tax revenue if the state legislature legalized weed for recreational use by adults over the age of 21. Moreover, legalization would create jobs in the marijuana industry and reduce a variety of "costs associated with illegal marijuana, including police time, court costs, prison costs and administrative fees," the study said.

Legalization would also benefit a lot of people—particularly ethic and racial minorities—who've been penalized by the criminal justice system for a minor marijuana infraction. In 2017, 86 percent of people busted for "marijuana possession in the fifth degree" in New York were "people of color," while just 9 percent were white, the report said. Thus, legalization would reduce the "disproportionate criminalization and incarceration" of those groups. Health officials also recommended that the state "expunge the criminal records of individuals with marijuana-related offenses."

The study posited that smoking marijuana comes with mental and physical health risks, but suggested that legalization won't lead to an onslaught of new users. That assertion fits with data from Colorado, where legal marijuana went on sale for adults in 2014. Since then, adolescent weed use has actually dropped to its lowest rate in almost a decade.

Now, it's up to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state's Democrat-led legislature to decide if they want to move forward with legalization. As the Associated Press reported, Cuomo has previously been wary of supporting legalization, but with far-left actress Cynthia Nixon challenging him in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, he's "softened his stance." In January, Cuomo asked the DOH to study the issue.

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  1. The positives of legalizing weed would outweigh the negatives, a study found.

    Here is a point where we, as libertarians, must be clear in our stance. Legalizing marijuana is good, and should be encouraged. But we should try to emphasize that the reason for this is more than just “The government thinks it’s better than not that peons are allowed to do it.”

    This is a chance to make a libertarian point in something that is already going our way. Do not lose the narrative and let it become just something the government ALLOWS us to do. It is something we always should have been able to do, even if it was negative for us.

    1. More importantly, every time a state decides to allow marijuana to enter the market, it’s always in the context of a “regulated market” and the government’s priority is getting a cut via taxes. I think it’s onerous and in no way an acceptable compromise for legalizing that which never should have been criminalized in the first place. But, the alternative (marijuana remains illegal) is worse. It is therefore unfortunate that this is a pattern that will repeat itself in every state, and I will rue the day the Feds decide they want a slot at the trough.

    2. That kind of messaging is going to have kind of a limited effect on people who aren’t already disposed to think of government as the enemy. That’s why it’s important to approach libertarian issues from a variety of angles like cost-benefit analyses and disparate impacts on certain races/classes/genders. I’d rather have more support for a libertarian policy change for the wrong reasons than less support for the right reasons. Once you have more people on board for a certain policy, you can use that as a wedge to introduce them to more libertarian ideas.

      BUCS is the kind of guy who has his dick out when he shows up for a date, while I wait at least until the movie starts to pull it out.

      1. Once you have more people on board for a certain policy, you can use that as a wedge to introduce them to more libertarian ideas.

        Which was the whole point of my second paragraph. If not now, in this case, then what is a time to make a libertarian case? We are afraid of philosophy, and we should do multiple things, but we should keep philosophy always there. Everything comes from philosophy at some level, even if we often don’t wish to admit it.

        1. The problem is that most people don’t think as explicitly about philosophy as we do. That’s why they vote for the party whose policies are just a haphazard grab bag of authoritarian bullshit. You can lay out your philosophy as clearly and articulately as you please, but if people aren’t inclined to think philosophically in the first place, they’re just going to change the channel.

          Messaging is one of the things that the movement needs to work on. We already know how to reach the mostly white mostly male nerdlingers who became lawyers and engineers. But we need to find people who are able to reach other niche audiences effectively about both policy and philosophy. Or at the very least more charismatic/articulate spokespeople than Penn Gillette and and Uncle Ron.

          1. If you don’t find Penn Gillette charismatic, you must be totally straight.

          2. This is weird. BUCS and Hugh having an almost entirely serious conversation.

    3. My memory is hazy, but in defense of the legalization movement, I think this was tried repeatedly throughout the 80s and the 90s and it never really went anywhere. It wasn’t until lawmakers began to see dollar signs (and the cause was heavily linked to “healthcare issues” which became front-and-center in the 90s) that it started to gain traction.

      I agree with you 100% and the early medicalization strategies used to piss me off, but I’m over it because I have admit, that’s kind of what it took. LIke you, I like to show up on a first date with my dick out, but I’m willing to wait until the end of the evening now– around the time I “run out of gas” in an alley.

      1. And so when is the good time for it then? I think we’re well into this happening, and what it seems like now is we are going to lose the ability to claim any libertarianism to it again, and just become a party of cranks who happens to agree with the mainstream here.

        1. I couldn’t begin to give you an answer. Off the cuff, it seems VERY unfashionable to say “I can engage in this behavior, not because you allow it, but because it’s my right”.

          Little anecdote. I was talking to a gentleman (who appeared to be in his late 40s, maybe early 50s) about 6 years ago because he was flying a high-end drone in the school football field where I was picking up my daughter– and since these weren’t often seen at that time, I went over and asked him some questions about it. A discussion ensued and he indicated he was some sort of professional photographer and was thinking about using it commercially, but the regulations weren’t there. Curious, I asked him what regulations barred him from using his drone for commercial photography. He said there were none, it was that they hadn’t provided any regulations allowing it, so it was forbidden.

          When that’s your starting place, you realize how much work there is to be done.

          1. He apparently was in a coma during the brief moped craze decades back – they didn’t have regs to demand plates when they first hit the market so anybody could buy one [and wreck]. Helmet laws (what few there were back then) also did not apply. That brief window of freedom lasted about a year if I recall. You should carry a few Calibrate Density bumper stickers around to give to just the sort of person like this drone operator.

      2. True patriots, such as our founding fathers, never put their dicks away!
        But yeah, I can certainly seen the advantages of pulling it out slowly and later on, if that’s what it takes to reach your goal.
        I think that if Trump seriously pushed for an end to federal schedule I status, he would lose few Trump supporters and gain a lot of millennial votes. I doubt this would have been the case until now.

    4. I try to always make the liberty point when people start going on about taxing and regulating. How about we just try leaving people the fuck alone?

  2. Shouldn’t the New York Department of health also think about legalizing cigarettes?

  3. Well… are we or are we not going to have a fundraiser in NYC billed as “bongloads for Chuck”? I’d like to see him in an altered state – he needs it.
    But seriously: NY has little hope in the matter, as Canada is a neighbor and is legalizing as we sit here. The only way they can tax it is to legalize it [greedy bastards].

  4. F U A. Cuomo ! You know when N.Y.S. decided to go fully legal pot ? Shortly after congress passed the $10,000 limit for SALT on federal income taxes. I live in NY and this states apatite for taxes knows no bounds. The state gov. is projected to have a budget deficit of approx. 5 billion in 3 years, and they can’t afford to leave that revenue on the table. A cynical ploy to say the least, but one I can get behind because I’m stoned as I type this.

  5. Headline should be, “N.Y.D.O.H. discover what Libertarians have been saying for 40+ years”.

    1. The LaGuardia commission report said it about 80 years ago.

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