WXXI AM News

Cuomo's proposal to study legalizing recreational marijuana sparks discussion

Jan 19, 2018

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Governor Andrew Cuomo wants the State Health Department to study the possible impacts of legalizing recreational marijuana in New York.

The state already allows people being treated for certain conditions to use the drug for medical purposes.

New Yorkers are closely divided on the idea of legalizing pot. According to a Siena College Poll last July 49 percent were in favor of it, and 47 percent were opposed.

Anca Seger, M.D., is a psychiatrist with Rochester Regional Health who specializes in addiction treatment.

One of her concerns is that marijuana, which is more potent than it was in the 1970s, would be readily available and socially acceptable if legalized, and therefore people may start smoking the drug at an earlier age.

She says while the risk of developing a cannabis substance abuse disorder is 10 percent for the general population, it's more likely to become a problem the younger a person is when they start.

"I just hope that the way we've shown success in reducing smoking rates in younger people over the last few years, hopefully with enough education, we will help people make wiser decisions at a young age about marijuana."

Seger says many people support legalized marijuana and many in the medical community will have concerns, but the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

Legislation has been proposed previously in both the State Assembly and Senate to legalize recreational marijuana and tax and regulate it like alcohol.

Until now, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been wary of pursuing legalization beyond the state’s medical marijuana program, which is considered one of the most restrictive in the U.S.