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Some LI lawmakers back plan to study marijuana legalization

Cuomo proposes looking at the economic, health and criminal justice impacts of legalizing recreational marijuana.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo talked about tackling some of the issues facing Long Island in his 2019 budget overview, delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. On his list were proposals for $150 million to treat the Northrup Grumman plume and $29.9 billion for roads and bridges. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

ALBANY — Some members of Long Island’s state delegation supported Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to study legalizing marijuana in the state, but stopped short of saying they would endorse legalization.

Cuomo floated the idea Tuesday during his budget address of funding a Department of Health-led study to look at the economic, health and criminal justice impacts of legalizing recreational marijuana. He said the study should also look at the effects of legalization in Massachusetts — and possibly New Jersey — on New York, as well as any future federal intervention.

“This is an important topic, it is a hotly debated topic — pardon the pun — and it’d be nice to have some facts in the middle of the debate once in awhile,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo did not address details on the potential study, including how much it would cost and how long it would take, during his speech. No actual funding for the study was included in Cuomo’s 2018-2019 budget proposal, though the budget bill dedicates “so much funds as shall be determined necessary” by the state health commissioner.

The state legalized medical marijuana in 2014.

Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) said her office has conducted a survey in her district and her constituents don’t appear to support recreational marijuana use. However, she said she was open to further research.

“I think we need to do a study,” she said. “I think it’s a smart way of going about it.”

Assemb. Christine Pellegrino (D-West Islip) said she was “encouraged” by Cuomo’s plan.

“I think it is time to look at what the economic impact of legalization could mean for the budget and we could have a real debate on what legalization could mean,” she said. “Let’s really have a full conversation with real information.”

Assemb. Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook) said that while he supported medical marijuana use, he still opposes recreational use, “regardless of any type of revenue” it could bring to the state.

“The bottom line is, in my opinion, it’s still a gateway drug that has resulted in significant problems” in states that have legalized it, he said.

Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) said he has always supported medical marijuana and agreed with Cuomo’s idea to study recreational legalization. “I don’t have a problem with our looking at it,” he said.

Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) said while he doesn’t support recreational use — he does support medicinal marijuana — “it’s not a bad idea to do the study.”

– With Yancey Roy and Michael Gormley

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