New York set to legalize marijuana use

Dude, It’s Gonna Be Like, Epic

New York is considered one of the most progressive states in the nation — especially under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reign — but it has lagged behind the other states jumping on the legalize marijuana bandwagon. That is about to change.

There is strong impetus in Albany to make New York the 10th state to legalize recreational use of the evil weed.

A group of legislators recently announced they will hold a series of hearings later this year to consider proposals to fully legalize marijuana in the Empire State.

Cuomo, who took some heat over his lackadaisical attitude toward the issue from Cynthia Nixon during their primary battle, is also coming around.

The announcement was made by Assembly Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol, Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried, Governmental Operations Committee Chair Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee Chair Linda Rosenthal.

“These hearings will give New Yorkers an opportunity to provide input and allow the committee chairs to learn from several other states that already allow adult use,” the committee chairs wrote in a press release.

Cuomo has embraced a report by the NYS Department of Health. The department found that the “positive effects” of legalization “outweigh the potential negative impacts.” In August, Cuomo said he intended to “implement the report’s recommendations through legislation.”

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Manhattan district attorney ordered prosecutors in the borough to suspend all marijuana possession cases. The aim of the mandate, similar to an earlier policy change made by Brooklyn’s district attorney, is to significantly reduce cannabis-related prosecutions — in this case by an estimated 96 percent.

There are nine states where recreational use of marijuana is legal: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts. It is also legal in the District of Columbia.

Oklahoma became the 30th state to legalize medical marijuana earlier this month. Residents voted 56-43 percent in support of the ballot initiative, which is one of the most permissive medical marijuana laws in the U.S.

The rest of the states — mostly so-called “Red” states — are opposed to making pot laws more lenient, and the Trump administration is against it as well.

In May, the New York Democratic Party adopted a resolution supporting adult-use marijuana legalization in the state, calling it “an important social justice issue.”

A 2017 Gallup poll showed that 64 percent of Americans support
legalization.

Marijuana prohibition began 80 years ago when the federal government put a ban on the sale, cultivation, and use of the cannabis plant. It remains illegal on the federal level.

The film Reefer Madness, released in 1936, fed the anti-marijuana propaganda machine. It opens with a discussion about a 15-year old boy who killed his entire family with an axe while stoned on pot.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com