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Cuomo considers legalizing recreational marijuana

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday called for the creation of a state panel to advise him on whether New York should legalize recreational marijuana.

Cuomo did not specifically embrace a legalization effort, and said the advisory group, which will include State Police representation, is meant to get to the "facts" of the issue.

"I think we should fund (Department of Health) to do a study, let them work with the State Police, other agencies, look at the health impact, the economic impact, the state of the law. If it was legalized in Jersey and it was legal in Massachusetts and the federal government allowed it to go ahead, what would that do to New York because it's right in the middle?" Cuomo said.

Last year, Cuomo said he opposed recreational marijuana in the state.

"It's a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there's a lot of proof that that's true," Cuomo said in February, according to Politico. "There's two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana."

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Under the Cuomo administration, the state began a strict medical marijuana program in 2016.

Eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized marijuana for recreational use, according to Governing magazine. Thirty states and Washington, D.C., have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, including medical marijuana.

In response to Cuomo's call, Erie County's top prosecutor said he will enforce whatever laws are on the books.

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District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr. essentially shrugged off Cuomo's announcement, saying he believes legal recreational marijuana will eventually come to pass and he will simply continue to do his job.

"The reality of it is 99 percent of the people arrested for personal possession of marijuana get ACDs," Flynn said. He was referring to "adjournments in contemplation of dismissal," under which charges are eventually dismissed if a defendant abides by conditions imposed by a court for a certain period of time.

News Staff Reporter Melinda Miller contributed to this report.

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