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Marijuana Legalization Efforts Face Challenges in New York State

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Although “reefer madness” was once a concept that terrified hapless squares, the concept of using cannabis products for overall health and decriminalizing its use under certain circumstances is now one that appeals to countless Americans. After all, the FDA has already approved at least one specific brand of CBD medication for the treatment of severe epileptic disorders, while other states are paving the way in allowing both medical and recreational marijuana use to become legal. But despite the fact that Governor Cuomo established his desire to make New York State’s legalization of marijuana a top priority, it may be an uphill battle for proponents of this type of legislation.

Back in March, the Albany Times-Union reported that legalizing marijuana would likely not be included in the upcoming budget. While Cuomo was still hoping to legalize marijuana by the end of the legislative session in June, the governor has since switched gears from his intent to include adult-use cannabis in his budgetary proposal.

But supporters aren’t discouraged yet, as negotiations are still taking place. Currently, recreational marijuana use is now legal in 10 states, while 14 have decriminalized marijuana. Medical marijuana use is legal in 33 states. And although there are some who are urging lawmakers to reject the idea of legalization, there is a growing movement of support among citizens and politicians alike. In fact, the majority of the Democratic candidates running for presidential office in 2020 agree that marijuana should be legalized. And according to a Gallup poll taken in October 2018, approximately 66% of respondents across a range of ages, political parties, and regions support marijuana legalization.

There is some evidence that marijuana legalization could have a positive impact on the opioid crisis that’s having major nationwide effects. Pharmaceutical products be tampered with just as easily as illicit substances (and degrade without proper handling, as just two degrees of temperature variation can ruin a given product), but the legalization of these substances could ensure that they’re safe — and not laced with fentanyl, as was found in Albany recently. But while the three most common causes of car accidents in the U.S. are drunk driving, distracted driving, and speeding, opponents have concerns that marijuana legalization could lead to an increase in road accidents; there is some data that points to a connection between states that have legalized marijuana use and a higher frequency of cannabis-related crashes. And since 5% of all arrests made in New York State are for possession of marijuana, the legalization of this currently outlawed drug would have major consequences in several areas.

Of course, you can’t forget the financial benefits of legalizing marijuana. The state estimates that it could bring in around $300 million per year from marijuana sales — and since New York State is facing budget deficits, that extra income would certainly come in handy. But whether lawmakers will actually make it happen remains to be seen — especially since some counties have already indicated that they would opt out if the law is passed. More than likely, this will be an ongoing debate that may divide New York residents on either side of the aisle. And while there are some legitimate concerns about legalizing recreational use, there are also some compelling arguments that could make the endeavor one that’s worthwhile for people from all walks of life.