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NYS Health Commissioner recommends legalizing pot

National Public Radio

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is moving ahead on a recommendation to legalize recreational marijuana in New York, a move immediately criticized by Cuomo’s Republican opponent for governor.

The announcement came not from Cuomo, but from his health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, speaking to a gathering of medical marijuana providers. Zucker said he has concluded that when it comes to legalizing pot, “the pros outweigh the cons.”  

Credit New York State Department of Health
Dr. Howard Zucker

“The report recommends that a regulated legal marijuana program be available to adults in the State of New York,” Zucker said. "The report also concludes that should a regulated program be implemented, special consideration will need to be given to a number of factors including the age of who can purchase marijuana, who can grow and distribute it, the location of dispensaries, and at what rate the product would be taxed.”

Earlier this year, Cuomo, who had been opposed to recreational marijuana, said the "facts have changed" because neighboring states are moving to legalize the drug. Cuomo said through a spokesman that he awaits the report and will review it, but did not actually commit to making pot legal in New York.

The Republican candidate for governor, Marc Molinaro, accuses Cuomo of “sprinting to the left” to save his political career since his Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon announced her candidacy. Nixon supports legalizing marijuana.

A spokeswoman for Molinaro, Katherine DelGado, said the “decision that has less to do with science and everything to do with politics.”

Nixon spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said it is a “disgusting form of irony” that “the governor is now using marijuana to distract from a corruption trial of a close associate.”

The former leader of Cuomo’s economic development efforts, Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, is on trial in federal district court, along with two upstate developers, on bid rigging charges.

It is unlikely that New York will allow recreational marijuana any time before next year. The legislature is set to adjourn for 2018 on Wednesday and the governor has not asked for any legislation to enact the plan.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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