Fact Check

No, New York State Hasn't Legalized Heroin

An article that reported that New York state had legalized heroin came from a satire site, but a proposal to allow addicts to use the drug under medical supervision may have confused the issue.

Published Mar 1, 2016

New York state has legalized heroin.

On 15 February 2016, the entertainment web site Empire News published an article claiming that New York state had legalized heroin:

The state of New York made history this week, following on the heels of the wave of marijuana legalizations across the country. Recreational use of heroin will become fully legal in the state by the end of this year.


“By legalizing, monitoring, and taxing heroin, we will not only cut down on inmates and care costs, but also open up a whole new job market,” Cuomo explained. “It’s a good situation all around, especially for taxpayers.”

This story is a piece of fiction from Empire News, a fake news web site that clearly labels its content as "satire" in its disclaimer:

Empire News is intended for entertainment purposes only. Our website and social media content uses only fictional names, except in cases of public figure and celebrity parody or satirization. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental.

While Empire News is open about its satirical content, the article was later republished by web sites such as We Are Change, Health Facts Concern, and Top Health Records, which do not clearly identify themselves as purveyors of fake news.

In addition to multiple web sites sharing the fake news story, some readers may have been confused by recent stories about Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick's controversial plan to allow heroin users to use the drug legally (but under medical supervision):

An upstate New York mayor's proposal to consider allowing heroin users to shoot up under medical supervision has divided drug policy experts, with some hailing it as an innovative, science-based approach and others rejecting it as radical and a slippery slope to legalization.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick formally announced the idea Wednesday as one of several proposals to address a wave of opioid addiction. The Democratic mayor also wants to create a new office of drug policy, help at-risk teens learn work skills and adopt a strategy implemented in Seattle that has police sending low-level drug offenders to treatment instead of jail.

While it's true that a mayor in New York state has introduced a plan to allow heroin users to use the drug under medical supervision, the claim that the city of New York has legalized heroin for recreational use is not true, and originated with a satire news web site.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.