Health Department in favor of legalizing recreational pot

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Weed all about it!

The state Health Department recommended wiping the criminal records of New Yorkers convicted of marijuana offenses as it issued a report Friday calling for the legalization of recreational cannabis.

“We recommend New York state expunge the criminal records of individuals with marijuana-related offenses,” the agency said in its 74-page report, which Gov. Cuomo ordered earlier in the year.

“This will have lasting social justice implications, as there has been disproportionate criminalization of certain racial and ethnic groups.”

Last year, 48 percent of those nabbed for pot possession in the state were black, 38 percent were Hispanic and only 9 percent were white — despite all races toking up at an equal rate, the study said.

To address that disparity, the study recommended following the examples of California and Seattle, where people can apply to have low-level charges erased or felonies reduced to misdemeanors.

Cuomo’s office wouldn’t say Friday if he supports expunging stoners’ records and said it’s not clear yet how that would be achieved — but advocates said the easiest way would be to make the provision part of a legalization bill, as both California and Massachusetts recently did.

Even if Albany only wipes out the lowest-level convictions — for toking up in public or selling a few joints — that would cover the overwhelming majority of the more than 800,000 people in the state busted on ganja charges over the past 20 years, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

Between 2013 and 2016, around 95 percent of pot arrests in the state were for the low-level charges, according to data provided by the group.

New York could harvest as much as $677.7 million a year by taxing the estimated 300 tons of wacky tabacky that state residents are already smoking, the report found.

It also recommended limiting the number of licenses for growers, manufacturers and sellers.

The study acknowledged there are some downsides and that pot smoking can be bad for your lungs and make serious mental illnesses worse — but concluded that the good outweighs the bad.
Following the report’s release, Cuomo said he would put together a “group” to work out the nitty-gritty of a legal pot plan.

The governor had opposed legalization in the past but said with Massachusetts already selling weed and New Jersey set to follow suit, that ship has sailed.

He’ll have to wait at least until the Legislature returns next year to introduce any legislation.

 

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