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Compassionate Care Act

Pot in New York?

NYS wants to Legalize Marijuana

If you are interested in why New York State wants to legalize marijuana, you should read on.

It is our intention to become your source for information in this brave new world.

In July, 2018, a report was issued by the New York State Department of Health assessing the potential impact of regulated marijuana in New York State. The charge by Governor Cuomo was to conduct a thorough review of the health, criminal justice and public safety, economic, and educational impacts of a regulated marijuana program in New York State. The impact assessment involved a public health approach to examining the benefits and risks associated with legalizing marijuana in New York State as compared to maintaining the status quo. The report noted that the status quo, which is to say the criminalization of marijuana, has not curbed marijuana use and has, in fact, led to unintended consequences. These unintended consequences include a disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of certain racial and ethnic groups that has a negative impact on families and communities.

Interestingly, the report noted that from the late 1800s until the 1930s, marijuana was generally considered a benign and medically effective substance. It was sold in pharmacies and doctor’s offices throughout the United States. During the “reefer madness” era of the 1930s there was a concerted effort to convince the country that marijuana posed a danger to society and that only prohibition could save the country.
Eventually it was determined that there was evidence to support the benefits of marijuana for medical purposes.

In 2014, Governor Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act establishing New York State’s medical marijuana program.

The State’s program is a national model with almost 1,700 registered providers and almost 60,000 certified patients. Twenty nine states and Washingon D.C. have established medical marijuana programs that benefit patients with numerous medical conditions. Success with medical programs across the country has led some jurisdictions to legalize marijuana for regulated adult use. The District of Columbia along with Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts have legalized marijuana for regulated adult use.

Department of Health Report

The Department of Health’s 27-page report, supported by an additional 50 pages of notes, charts and graphs, concluded that the positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in New York State outweigh the potential negative impacts. Areas that may be a cause for concern, such as driving while under the influence, can be mitigated with regulation and proper use of public education that is tailored to address key populations.

The report also noted that the creation of a regulated marijuana program would enable New York State to better control licensing, ensure quality control and consumer protection, and age and quantity restrictions. New York State would be one of the largest potential regulated marijuana markets in the United States and as such, there is potential for substantial tax revenue.

While there are many factors to be considered, the report noted that ultimately the system should be designed to reduce the utilization of the unregulated market. The report recommends adoption of a model of licensing priorities similar to the Massachusetts model. Massachusetts is prioritizing applicants for licensure to ensure equal opportunities in the regulated market for individuals who meet certain criteria, including ownership by or the provision of services to persons who live in areas of disproportionate impact, employment of residents of areas of disproportionate impact, employment of people with drug-related criminal offender record information who are otherwise employable, and ownership by persons of color.

The report is not attempting to reinvent the wheel but rather learn from the experiences of our sister states. While recognizing that a change from an unregulated to a regulated market will be complex, the report provides a full-throated endorsement of the creation of a regulated marijuana market in New York State.

Watch this space for all further developments.

You can read the full report here.

This is not intended to be legal advice.  You should contact an attorney for advice regarding your specific situation.  


Robert M. Lefland is Senior Counsel and primary attorney in charge of Personal Injury at J&G. He can be reached by calling 866.303.9595 toll free or 845.764.9656 and by email .  He is available by appointment on Saturday’s.  If you need his immediate attention, you can reach him on cell.



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