New York moved a step closer to becoming the 10th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana Monday as the state’s top health official told reporters that a study will recommend New York allow for legal consumption.
“We looked at the pros, we looked at the cons, and when we were done, we realized that the pros outweighed the cons,” New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker told reporters Monday in Brooklyn.
He said the report, commissioned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would be released soon. In a statement released by the state’s health department later that day, Zucker noted that New York’s bordering states have already legalized marijuana or are in the process of doing so.
Zucker added that the report weighs a number of questions, including “the age of who can purchase marijuana, who can grow and distribute it, the location of dispensaries, and at what rate the product would be taxed.”
Nine states in the United States have already legalized recreational marijuana use, including neighboring states Vermont and Massachusetts. New Jersey lawmakers are also weighing a bill that would bring recreational marijuana to the state and expand its medical marijuana program.
New York became one of 29 states to launch a medical marijuana program under Cuomo’s administration, but the governor has opposed recreational marijuana in the past. He called marijuana a “gateway” drug as recently as last year.
Cuomo called for the study into recreational marijuana in January, saying he wanted to introduce additional facts to the debate. He’s facing a Democratic primary challenger in Cynthia Nixon, who supports the legalization of marijuana.
Even after the report reaches the governor’s desk, recreational marijuana could face a tough road ahead. The issue is expected to have support in the Democrat-led Assembly, but could stall in the Republican-held Senate.
Before discussing the study, Zucker also told reporters that the state’s medical marijuana program would expand to allow those using or abusing prescription opioids to qualify for medical marijuana.
“The opioid epidemic in New York State is an unprecedented crisis, and it is critical to ensure that providers have as many options as possible to treat patients in the most effective way,” Zucker said. “As research indicates that marijuana can reduce the use of opioids, adding opioid use as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana has the potential to help save countless lives across the state.”
As of June 12, the state’s medical marijuana program had 1,688 registered health practitioners and 58,990 certified patients, according to state data.