New York took a major step toward legalizing marijuana on Monday, as Health Commissioner Howard Zucker announced that his department is sending a report to Governor Andrew Cuomo's office on the matter. The report is still being finalized, Zucker said in a statement, but it concludes that the Empire State should establish a legal, regulated program that gives New Yorkers a way to take some gnarly bong rips without worrying about Johnny Law.
“Our border states have already legalized marijuana or are in the process of doing so,” Zucker's statement says. “The report...concludes the pros of a regulated program outweigh the cons.”
Cuomo commissioned the report in January, less than a year after he publicly opposed legalization of the substance. Since then, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has released a report estimating that legal pot would create a $3.1 billion industry in the state, and Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo's biggest challenger in this September's Democratic primary election, came out in favor of legalization. After Nixon's announcement, Cuomo started to change his tune on the topic.
“The situation has changed drastically with marijuana,” the Cuomo said during a press conference in April. “It’s no longer a question of legal or not legal. It’s legal in Massachusetts. It may be legal in New Jersey, which means for all intents and purposes, it’s going to be here anyway.”
“I know people have opinions—and it’s hard to get people to change opinions—but opinions should be based on facts,” he added. "So let’s talk to the experts; let’s put together the facts.”
Now, with the Health Department's report about to reach the governor's desk, those “facts” are available. Any measure to legalize the devil’s lettuce would have to go through the state legislature. Cuomo has said that there is not enough support in the body to pass a weed bill, given that the State Senate is under Republican control. But if this fall's election gives Democrats more seats in Albany, the green drug could have a green light in New York.