State Launches Effort To Lower Stigma Surrounding Marijuana

In March 2021, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), making recreational marijuana legal in New York. On April 4, 2022, the New York State Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) held its first public education event regarding legal recreational marijuana use.

At Monday’s event, OCM Director Chris Alexander noted that “while cannabis is legal to use, the only regulated businesses selling products in the state are those within the medical [marijuana] program.” Marijuana cannot be sold for recreational use on non-Indian lands in New York until the state has created a regulatory structure for such sales; legal recreational marijuana sales are expected to begin by the end of this year. Alexander added that the safety of illegally-sold marijuana is suspect and asserted that the OCM is “working to shut down illicit operations.” (Given that vendors are openly selling recreational marijuana in New York City’s Washington Square Park, the OCM may want to ramp up its efforts to crack down on unlawful sales.) 

According to the Albany Times Union, the OCM has planned a statewide media campaign called “Cannabis Conversations.” The campaign will communicate public health messages, including the importance of keeping marijuana away from children and refraining from driving while under the influence of marijuana. Alexander remarked, “‘We’ve got 100 years of stigma to undo, to reeducate the state of New York on what cannabis is, how it can be used, how it can benefit their lives, but also the risks where they exist.’”

April Fools’ Day would have been a better time for the first “Cannabis Conversations” event. The message that state government ought to send regarding recreational marijuana use is this: Marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug. Its effects can include “impaired motor coordination, impaired driving and other psychomotor skills, slowed reaction time, [altered] peripheral vision,” bronchitis, respiratory problems, lung damage, increased cancer risk, immune system problems, “decreased drive and ambition, shortened attention span, poor judgment, high distractibility, impaired communication skills,” panic attacks, paranoid delusions, and hallucinations. Despite the unfortunate legalization of this drug, New Yorkers would be well advised to stay away from it.