New Yorkers Share Views on Cannabis and Alcohol

Stephen Andrews
06 Mar 2023

A recent state survey reveals that a plurality of New Yorkers believe that drinking alcohol is a serious public health issue compared to a fewer number who think cannabis is the bigger problem. The poll has also shown strong support for New York's adult-use marijuana law, with a significant number of people also being positive on the question of whether they want a cannabis retailer operating in their community.

The insights come from The New York Department of Health's annual chronic disease survey, released at the end of February. The survey examines public views on a variety of issues, including cannabis and other drug policy questions. The survey results are used to shape future public health policies purposed to prevent and control chronic diseases like obesity and cancer. 

The survey highlights different health- and policy-related findings. For example, more than half of survey participants believe Americans are less healthy today than a generation ago. And only 25 percent said that Americans are healthier today compared to a generation ago. New Yorkers also expressed a negative view of marketing tobacco products that specifically target Black and Hispanic communities.

Among the highlights are also the public's view on alcohol and cannabis use. A significant 77% of survey participants said that they believe alcohol consumption is either a very or somewhat serious public health issue. At the same time, less than half, or 46% to be exact, see marijuana as wrongdoing or as a very or somewhat serious public health issue. 

The survey insights are consistent with the general public perception of alcohol and cannabis currently in the United States. As more states have begun to regulate cannabis legally, fewer people view marijuana as a damaging substance. The shifting perception partially owes to increased public awareness of the medicinal values of cannabis. 

Polling has also found that many people turn to cannabis to substitute alcohol consumption or prescription medicines. A good example is Dry January, when people take the challenge to abstain from alcohol for the month. A recent survey found that 1 in 5 persons switched to cannabis and CBD products as a way to avoid drinking alcohol in the month of January 2023. 

New York's annual chronic disease survey also accentuates the popularity of marijuana legalization. More than half of respondents, or 58 percent, appear to support enacting the new legal cannabis law. 

The Empire State launched its first dispensary at the end of last year, 2022. Since then, three more cannabis retail locations have opened. As regulators are in the process of issuing work permits for more legal businesses, the survey shows that almost half of New Yorkers, or 48 percent, favor having a dispensary located in their neighborhood. 

Some oppose legal cannabis, however. A quarter of survey participants said they were against cannabis legalization, while 15 percent were neutral on the question; 31 percent said they didn't want retailers in their neighborhood, and 19 percent took a neutral stance. 

New York's Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has faced much criticism in the last few months for its sluggishness in issuing work licenses for cannabis retailers. Many believe this is what has enabled the flourishing of unlicensed weed retailers, particularly on the streets of New York City. 

Regulators plan to issue a total of 300 retailer licenses across New York, double the number initially announced. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited one of the city's dispensaries in February. But reports say that she didn't make any purchase, despite having said earlier that she is open to trying out cannabis. 

Lawmakers in New York are also working on separate legislation that seeks to legalize certain psychedelics to mirror state laws like those in Oregon. The upcoming law will likely make psilocybin and ibogaine legal for adults 21 and older. One of the new laws in-the-making also seeks to decriminalize drug possession. 

Stephen Andrews