The report predicts that legalizing marijuana could reduce opioid dependency while eliminating criminal penalties that disproportionately impact minorities.
The underground marijuana market of NY is one of the most lucrative of any state in America, racking up as much as $3.5 billion from the 300 tons of weed sold each year.
In a 74-page report, the Health Department laid out dozens of reasons the state should legalize the drug for recreational use, estimating it could generate up to $678 million in annual tax revenue and cut down on the disproportionate arrests of black and Hispanic users. But despite the report's virtually unqualified support of legalization, Cuomo, if he chooses that path, would still have to win over the Legislature.
The new policy already went into effect. The report also makes an economic case that legalization will lead to a reduction in law enforcement costs, and bring jobs and tax revenues to the state.
The study represents something of an about-face on marijuana policy for ny, which has lagged behind a number of its neighbors, including Vermont, Massachusetts and Canada on marijuana policy. But he has softened his stance amid pressure from legalization supporters, including his Democratic primary opponent, "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon.
Cuomo has always been wary of marijuana legalization, calling it a "gateway drug" as recently as past year.
As of Tuesday, more than 62,000 people signed up for the state's medical marijuana program. "In 2018, in a blue state like NY, marijuana shouldn't be an issue", Nixon said in an April campaign video. "If there was more political courage coming out of Albany, we would have done this already".
A May Quinnipiac poll of NY voters found that 63 percent supported "allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use". Federal Bureau of Investigation crime statistics show that each year there are almost 16 marijuana possession arrests for every 1,000 marijuana users in the state, putting NY in the middle of the pack on users' likelihood of getting arrested.
The report suggests that officials believe that marijuana legalization in NY is just a matter of time. "It has become less a question of whether to legalize but how to do so responsibly", the authors write.