Far more New Yorkers believe that consuming alcohol is a serious public health problem compared to the minority who feel the same about marijuana, according to a recent survey conducted by state officials.
There’s also majority support for the state’s adult-use cannabis law, and a plurality of New Yorkers additionally favor having marijuana retailers open up in their communities.
The New York Department of Health’s annual chronic disease survey that was released late last month examined public opinion on a wide range of issues, including marijuana and other drug policy matters.
One of the takeaways that the department featured in an accompanying press release shows the significant divide in public perception of the public health dangers of using alcohol versus cannabis.
According to the survey, 77 percent of respondents consider alcohol use a somewhat or very serious public health concern, while 46 percent said the same about cannabis consumption.
The finding is largely consistent with shifting public perceptions on alcohol and marijuana nationally, with fewer people viewing cannabis as a seriously dangerous substance as more states move to legalize the plant for medical and recreational purposes. Public education has also contributed to increased awareness of the harms of alcohol.
Also, polling has found that many people are using marijuana as an alternative to alcohol, as well as a litany of prescription medications.
About one in five people who abstained from alcohol as part of “Dry January” this year said they’re were using cannabis as an alternative to help get through the month, according to one recent survey.
“This data will help the Department know where to best target our efforts and what issues matter most to people living in New York State,” New York Health Commissioner James McDonald said of the overall results of the state survey, which was conducted from January 3-20, 2022.
Meanwhile, the department’s new report also spoke to the popularity of marijuana legalization, with a 58 percent saying they support the enactment of the law that’s actively being implemented. Twenty-five percent said they opposed the reform, while 15 percent took a neutral position.
As regulators work to approve cannabis business licensees and open more retailers for adult consumers, the survey further showed that a plurality of New Yorkers (48 percent) favor having them located in their communities, seemingly contradicting NIMBY-ist arguments that are often heard from legalization opponents.
Thirty-one percent said that they don’t want retailers in their communities, while 19 percent said they were neither in favor or opposed to having such businesses operating in their vicinity.
As it stands, however, relatively few New Yorkers have access to nearby legal adult-use dispensaries, as only four shops have opened their doors as regulators seek to prioritize social equity licensing applicants who have been most impacted by the drug war. That said, unlicensed cannabis retail outlets have proliferated across the state, especially in New York City.
The state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has faced criticism, including from out-of-state officials like the governor of Connecticut, for opening so few retailers in recent months despite significant demand in the populous state.
Regulators did announce last week that they are doubling the number of conditional adult-use marijuana licenses that can be approved, from 150 to 300, after receiving feedback from certain applicants that they would be able to more expeditiously open storefronts without additional support through a state program designed to help eligible entities create physical locations.
Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) visited one of the four currently operating cannabis retailers late last month, though she didn’t buy anything, even as she signaled openness to trying marijuana in the future.
In December, Hochul separately unveiled a marijuana business and product verification tool, with plans to post a QR code on licensed cannabis retailers and a universal symbol label for authorized cannabis products.
The governor also signed a bill in late November aimed at expanding the state’s hemp market by promoting collaborative partnerships to identify more opportunities to utilize the crop and its derivatives for packaging, construction and other purposes.
New York lawmakers, meanwhile, recently filed legislation for this year’s session to legalize certain psychedelics like psilocybin and ibogaine for adults 21 and older. Separate legislation would also broadly decriminalize drug possession.
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