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Gov't Study Calls for Legalizing Marijuana in New York

marijuana in jars for sale
Marijuana in jars for sale

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's adminstration released a study Friday that finds the state could benefit by legalizing marijuana.

The report cites growing public support for a regulated legal marijuana program, and says a state run system protects consumers from risks encountered in the black market sale of the drug. It says it could also create over 200,000 new jobs, and bring $700 million in tax revenue to the state.

The report finds legalization does come with risks; heavy use of the drug can affect memory and exacerbate some mental health conditions,  and from eight to 30 percent of regular users can become addicted.  

The report represents a big change for Cuomo, who last year called marijuana a “gateway drug” to more harmful substances.

Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo’s primary opponent in the governor’s race, who is challenging the governor from the left, is also a supporter of legalizing marijuana, saying the state’s laws against the drug disproportionately harm people of color. Nixon claimed credit for Cuomo’s policy shift, and also accused Cuomo of trying to distract the public from the federal jury’s bid rigging conviction late Thursday of the former architect of the governor’s multi-billion dollar economic development program.

Nixon, in a statement, says Cuomo “is hoping New Yorkers get too stoned to remember” the corruption trials.

The drug will likely not become legal before the legislature meets again, in 2019.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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