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New York considering legalization of recreational marijuana

Across the country, marijuana laws are in a state of flux. In eight states and the District of Columbia, marijuana for recreational use is now legal.

In addition, 30 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of medical marijuana.

New York is not one of the states that have legalized recreational marijuana. But Massachusetts recently did so and neighboring New Jersey is looking seriously at it. Might New York do the same?

The short answer is a tentative, exploratory yes. Culturally, attitudes to marijuana use are changing rapidly toward more acceptance. And state governments are also increasingly aware of the revenue that the legalization of marijuana could generate.

Gov. Cuomo's position on pot

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not been in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis in the past. Instead, he has expressed concerns that it a gateway drug.

But now he may be reevaluating that stance. He has asked the Department of Health to do a study on the effects of recreational marijuana. The study is expected to be done by this fall.

Changing cannabis laws in New York's neighboring states

Marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, so taking it across state lines can still get you in trouble (even if it's legal in both states).

But the trend toward more legalization of marijuana at the state level is clear. This includes two of New York's neighboring states, Massachusetts and Jersey.

In 2016, Massachusetts voters voted to legalize recreational marijuana. The law took effect this year.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy was elected in 2016 after campaigning to make marijuana more widely available. He contended that his processor, Chris Christie, was too restrictive in applying the state's medical marijuana law. With the new governor in office, New Jersey has taken action to make medical marijuana available to more people and is considering outright legalization.

Penalties for pot are still in place

While New York is considering a change, there are still some significant penalties if you're caught with marijuana before those changes take place.

Some of those penalties are only fines, but there are still several offenses that could land you in jail. For example, if you're caught selling any amount of marijuana you could be looking at anywhere from three months to seven years in jail and fines up to $5,000.

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