New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo implies Politico reporter is pushing pro-marijuana agendaNew York State Governor Andrew Cuomo gives fourth State of the State address on January 8, 2014 in Albany, New York. (Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo doubled down on his opposition to recreational marijuana legalization on Wednesday, Feb. 8, calling it a “gateway drug” and insinuating the reporter who raised the topic was advocating for legalization and may have been using pot on the job, Politico reports.

New York legalized medical cannabis in 2014 and was among the first states in the nation to decriminalize personal marijuana possession in 1977. But when it comes to recreational marijuana, New York lags well behind states like California and Colorado, where cannabis consumption and retail sales have been legalized for adults 21 and older.

Recreational marijuana use is now legal for adults in eight states and the District of Columbia. Medical cannabis is legal for qualifying patients in 28 states as well as D.C.

New York State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, introduced legislation in 2015 to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use in the state. Such a bill would need the governor’s final approval to become law, however, and Cuomo doesn’t seem to be warming to the idea.

On Wednesday, Politico reporter Jimmy Vielkind asked Cuomo to explain his opposition to legalizing marijuana, prompting a seemingly combative response from the governor.

Here’s the exchange, transcribed by Politico:

VIELKIND: “You’ve talked a lot about making New York a progressive leader, and in your state of the state written message you talked about restructuring marijuana laws. You haven’t embraced recreational marijuana even as other states have, and I’m wondering, why are you kind of a stick in the mud about recreational marijuana?”

CUOMO: “Why am I a stick in the mud about recreational marijuana? That’s a sort of loaded question, wouldn’t you say Jimmy? It has an opinion in it. I support medical marijuana, I don’t support recreational marijuana — apparently you do, which explains some of the stories you’ve been writing. Recreational marijuana I think should be separated from the workplace, do we agree on that?”

VIELKIND: “Absolutely, sir.”

CUOMO: “I just wanted to make sure.”

VIELKIND: “But you’ve smoked marijuana, you’ve said you’ve done so. Why not recreational marijuana? Lots of New Yorkers smoke marijuana unlawfully.”

CUOMO: “The flip-side argument as you know is it’s a gateway drug, and marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true. There’s two sides to the argument. But I, as of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana. If you choose to marijuana recreationally, you know the law, but again, as reporters, I think you should keep it out of the workplace. But it does explain a lot to me, Jimmy. I want you to know that.”

Contrary to Cuomo’s claims, the gateway theory has been largely discredited in recent years.

Former U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch admitted as much during a September 2016 town hall meeting, when she identified prescription opioids — not marijuana — as the primary gateway drug leading people to heroin abuse.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has also softened previous claims against marijuana as a primary gateway drug of concern.

According to NIDA’s “Is marijuana a gateway drug?” site page:

“…the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances. Also, cross-sensitization is not unique to marijuana. Alcohol and nicotine also prime the brain for a heightened response to other drugs and are, like marijuana, also typically used before a person progresses to other, more harmful substances.

“It is important to note that other factors besides biological mechanisms, such as a person’s social environment, are also critical in a person’s risk for drug use. An alternative to the gateway-drug hypothesis is that people who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances such as marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol, and their subsequent social interactions with others who use drugs increases their chances of trying other drugs. Further research is needed to explore this question.”

[h/t Tom Angell/Marijuana Moment]

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