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New York health department: Legalized recreational marijuana would have positive impacts

ALBANY, NY (WROC) - A report issued by the New York Department of Health finds that legalizing recreational marijuana would have positive impacts for state residents.

The 75-page report explored the possible effects of creating a state-regulated recreational marijuana program. This included citing past studies on recreational marijuana and research that state organizations conducted. The report looked at the effects legalizing recreational marijuana would have on public health, the criminal justice system, and the state economy. 

The conclusion of the report stated that the positive effects of regulating recreational marijuana outweigh the negative effects of keeping marijuana illegal. According to the report, creating a regulated marijuana program would enable the state to better control cannabis licensing, ensure consumer protection, and set age requirements. 

The report follows a decision by Governor Cuomo to create a task force to examine the impact of legalizing marijuana, as many surrounding states and Canada have moved towards legalization.

One of the major concerns that the study highlighted was the disproportionate amount of minority individuals arrested for marijuana possession. The study had cited that African Americans were nearly four times more likely than white individuals to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite data showing equal use among racial groups. 

The report also mentioned that, in 2010, New York’s marijuana arrest rate was the highest of any state, with 535 arrests per 100,000 people. The study mentioned that such a high arrest rate can negatively impact communities by destabilizing families, lowering employment opportunities, and increasing poverty.

The study also highlighted the economic benefits that could come with legalization of marijuana. The study found that if marijuana was sold between $297 to $374 per ounce, it could generate between $248 million and $678 million in tax revenue for the state. 

Last month, Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of the Department of Health, told reporters that, like any drug, as more information is gathered, opinions can change.

"This is no different than any medicine," Zucker said. "When new facts come in, you have to look at the analysis and you have to figure out what kind of decision do you make at that point in time. So, we have new facts, we have new data and as a result of that we have made the decision to move forward."

To read the DOH's full report, you can click here.

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