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A watched pot: Albany must finally legalize the recreational marijuana use of marijuana


Legal, the right way. (RylandZweifel/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

More than a year ago, this page came out in support of the legalization of recreational marijuana, on the ground that keeping the drug illegal fed indefensible racial disparities in policing and punishment, with no public health benefit.

After fits and starts, as the session draws to a close, the Assembly and Senate have a chance to make New York only the second state to legalize use of the drug through the legislative process. We urge all sides to get it done, because the bill under consideration makes a series of responsible choices about how to structure the legal cannabis market.

We recommended that a big chunk of the revenue generated from new taxes be dedicated to combating addiction and abuse. The framework around which legislators and the governor appear to be coalescing would earmark 25% of revenues (beyond program costs) to treatment programs and public education campaigns; it allows for enhanced police training to recognize impairment. We’d like to see that nudged higher, but it’s a good start.

We called for a set of rules and regulations that would “ensure that people of all races and backgrounds can participate and profit.” The main bill under consideration would give priority to those previously affected by marijuana convictions and offering low or zero interest loans.

We urged the expunging of the criminal records of those with low-level pot convictions — but not of traffickers. The framework around which legislators and the governor appear to be coalescing would do that.

The governor’s initial proposal limited marijuana home growing to those with medical-marijuana licenses; the MRTA calls for allowing an individual to grow six plants on their property, a better approach.

It is more important to get the details right than to rush this legislation through, but the details emerging appear right. Speed and sanity are aligned.