Hearing Touts Economic, Social Benefits Of Marijuana

NEW YORK:  A hearing on a long-shot state Senate bill to fully legalize marijuana previewed issues already surfacing with its medical counterpart.

The subject of the hearing, Sen. Liz Krueger’s bill to legalize recreational marijuana, is unlikely to pass this session. But it’s igniting debate about the state’s medical marijuana program, the rules of which the Department of Health is currently creating.

Public health advocates testified at the hearing that the state should balance its interest in raising tax revenue with a public-health goal to reduce smoking rates and eliminate the illegal marijuana market completely.

The Independent Budget Office chief of staff, Doug Turetsky, pointed to the effects of New York’s high cigarette taxes. While cigarettes’ high cost has lowered smoking rates, it has also driven about 54% of cigarette purchases to the illegal market.