Legalized Marijuana in New York: What’s Next?

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Currents News Staff

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his support for changes in federal marijuana laws after New York became the 15th state, plus Washington D.C., to legalize it for recreational use.

“I support decriminalization at the federal level,” Sen. Schumer said, “and we’ll be introducing legislation with a few of my colleagues shortly.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo quickly signed the bill into law, saying it was “about time,” after years of excessive policing along racial lines and easy access to the drug in neighboring states. Gov. Cuomo pushed the pot law on a brand new website,

“This will raise revenue and end the over-criminalization of this product that has left so many communities of color over-policed and over-incarcerated,” he said.

But critics say it’s just a money grab for the state and that users will begin to abuse the drug. The Diocese of Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is against the bill, saying the science is on his side.

“Marijuana unfortunately is like smoking,” the bishop said. “People who smoke are endangering their life. People who smoke marijuana will be doing the same thing, endangering their life with the possibility of cancer. That’s what science says.”

Bishop DiMarzio says the law puts the lives of teens and young adults at risk.  

“The fact of the matter is we’re making this now available and young people will start to use it as young people think they’re invincible and nothing will affect them,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “This is not a good thing for our society in New York or any place else.”

A new study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse backs up those concerns. Adolescents are more likely to develop substance-use disorders after first trying cannabis because their brains are still developing.

This data is according to the study’s co-author, Dr. Emily Einstein, Chief of Science Policy at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“The earlier someone initiates substance use, the more of an impact it has on their brain development,” Dr. Einstein said. “We found that within the first 12 months of first trying cannabis in the 12-17 year age group, there was a 10.7 percent chance of developing a substance use disorder.”

While the study didn’t look at the reasons behind the findings, Dr. Einstein underscored the need for more research into how marijuana interacts with the brain.

“I think it’s important for adolescents and young adults to really understand what risk looks like as they encounter substances in their lives,” she said. “It’s very true that not everyone who takes a drug will develop addiction. There’s still a large chance that you will develop addiction and that chance is even larger if you start using substances at a younger age.”

Parts of the new law are already in effect in New York State with the federal government now looking to follow suit, but it could be an uphill climb. President Biden supports medical marijuana and decriminalizing it, but hasn’t called for its full legalization.