New Study on Cannabis Use in NYC Could Pave Way for Legalization

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What to Know

  • NYC's health department released its first comprehensive report on cannabis use in the city on Tuesday
  • Over 1.3 million New Yorkers reported using cannabis in the past year and many of them are younger than 34 years old
  • The study found that out of 55,785 drug-related visits, only 3,066 had cannabis-related principal diagnosis

A new study on marijuana usage in New York City found that over 1.3 million New Yorkers reported using cannabis in the past year and many of them are residents younger than 34 years old.

The report, released Tuesday by the city's heath department, is the first comprehensive study of the federally illegal drug and it could help pave the way for the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state. Between 2015-2016, 19% of male and 13% of female New York City residents reported using cannabis at least once, according to the study.

The study also took a look at emergency department visits related to cannabis. It found that out of 55,785 drug-related visits, only 3,066 had cannabis-related principal diagnosis and 17% of them also involved alcohol as well as other drugs like cocaine.

There were virtually no difference in the genders of young people who reported marijuana use, according to the study, with 16% of adolescent girls and 15% adolescent boys.

When it comes to race, the study found that 24.1% of white residents reported cannabis use, 14.1% of black New Yorkers reported usage in the past year and 12.3% of Latinos did as well.

In a statement, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez highlighted the fact that nearly 90% of marijuana possession arrests have been black and brown residents and applauded the city for the study.

"This is why the Brooklyn DA’s office no longer prosecutes anyone for simple possession of marijuana. I commend the City for undertaking this study and hope it will be taken into account as we consider how to safely legalize marijuana in a way that fairly addresses the harms of the past," Gonzalez said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week urged neighboring states to work together on recreational marijuana policies as the state grapples with its ban on vaping products.

The governor planned Wednesday to travel to Connecticut to meet with the state's Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. In interviews Tuesday, Cuomo blamed the federal government for failing to take action and said he also wants to work with New Jersey.

Health officials nationwide are investigating hundreds of cases of serious breathing illnesses in people who use e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. The ailment has sickened at least 530 people and killed nine. Many patients reported vaping THC from marijuana, though health officials have cautioned that some said they only vaped nicotine.

New York's governor said states that neighbor each other, like Connecticut and New York, should make sure they address vaping as they consider stalled efforts to legalize pot.

Attempts to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana have fizzled in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut this year amid pushback from critics concerned about public health and safety. Such efforts have not passed despite support from those states' Democratic governors including Cuomo, who called legalization a top priority for next year.

The New York governor said it doesn't make sense for one of the states to pass a completely different policy than a neighboring state. He said states should look at issues like taxation, THC content and volume.

"You don't want people driving distances to buy marijuana products and then driving back," he said.

Cuomo, who noted many marijuana products can be vaped, said states also need to work together to address the use of flavorings in marijuana vaping products. "You can now buy THC in gummy bear," Cuomo said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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