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Foss: New York will legalize marijuana

Foss: New York will legalize marijuana

Foss: New York will legalize marijuana
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

It might take a few years, but make no mistake: New York is going to legalize marijuana. 

That's my main takeaway from the state Department of Health's recently released report assessing the impact of creating a legal, regulated marketplace for pot. 

It's a lengthy document, but it ultimately concludes that the positives outweigh the negatives, and that New York should legalize marijuana for recreational use. 

That's the same conclusion I've come to, in large part because marijuana simply isn't dangerous enough to justify criminalizing it, or treating the people who consume it as dangerous criminals. 

Beyond that, our strategy for dealing with pot hasn't worked. 

We're decades into the war on drugs, and marijuana consumption is as robust as ever, as the flourishing black market for pot can attest. 

Most people smoke pot with impunity, and the research suggests black people are far more likely to be arrested on marijuana-related charges than white people, even though both groups consume marijuana at the same rate.  

This isn't fair, or just, and it's one of the big reasons why a new approach to marijuana is needed, one that recognizes the ineffectiveness of prohibition and the relative harmlessness of pot. 

The DOH report does this. 

It discusses the human toll our senseless drug laws take, the economic benefits offered by legalization and the problems associated with the unregulated marketplace for pot, such as a lack of quality control. 

The report doesn't shy away from the downsides to legalizing marijuana, such as an uptick in stoned driving. 

This is my big concern: We know that the opioid epidemic has led to an increase in drugged driving, and that drunk driving remains a huge social problem. 

The DOH report suggests that anti-DWI efforts can be expanded to include education about driving under the influence of marijuana. 

This is a good idea, but I suspect more will be needed. A 2017 Denver Post article reported that traffic fatalities linked to marijuana had risen sharply since the drug was legalized there. Preventing this from happening in New York will be one of the great challenges associated with legalizing pot. 

The good news is that nine other states have already legalized marijuana, and New York can draw upon their experiences to craft better public policy. 

In other words, there's no need to reinvent the wheel -- we can look to other states for lessons, guidance and expertise. 

As for those other states, they appear to be doing just fine. 

There's still time for them to transform into dystopian hellholes as a result of legalization, but the news thus far is fairly positive. Colorado and Washington are both booming, and their largest cities, Denver and Seattle, are as attractive as they've ever been. The big change, according to friends who live in these places: You're much more likely to smell marijuana. 

We don't know how long it will be before New York follows in the footsteps of states that have made the legalization leap. 

But it will make the leap. 

And the reason for this is simple: The benefits outweigh the costs, and there's little to be gained from denying this. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's. 

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