Around the nation and in New York, talk has turned from “if” to “when” and “how” marijuana may be made legal for recreational use. Even if Republicans manage to keep control of the state Senate, there are likely to be enough among them who understand why it is so important for New York to avoid the usual Albany impasse — stubbornly refusing to bring this issue to a vote — and give it the thorough examination it deserves.

Republicans were very involved when it came to the medicinal use of marijuana and the expansion to recreational use is both the logical next step and one that is being dictated by forces outside the control of state officials.

To start with, we are surrounded by a legal marijuana industry. Recreational use is legal with a variety of restrictions in Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont. New Jersey is seriously considering legalization. It became legal in Canada on Wednesday.

This gives a new definition to the idea of a day trip. It also is clear that New Yorkers who have had no trouble obtaining small amounts for their own non-medicinal use for decades, and who have been able to do so with a legal risk that amounted to not much more than a speeding ticket for years, are going to be importing pot if they want to. In that context, it is important for New York to put into effect the kinds of rules and restrictions that others have implemented, ones that will give those in law enforcement a fighting chance to make sure that youngsters do not have more access than they do now and that people on the roads face a uniform and enforceable set of laws and regulations.

To that end, members of the Assembly are holding hearings around the state — the first was in Manhattan on Tuesday — to go over the details of what such a state approach would look like. And they immediately got some good advice from a seasoned prosecutor, the district attorney of Albany County. Legalize marijuana but be careful, David Soares said as Newsday reported. And he put this potential legalization into a wider, more compelling context:

"The war on drugs was a failure. The end of a drug war presents opportunities to treat the addicted, to rebuild our communities and to restore confidence in our system of justice.”

Instead of debating which malady really deserves to be on the approved list for medical marijuana, instead of wasting time considering if a merger among approved medicinal marijuana suppliers constitutes an illegal monopoly, instead of pretending that pot will not be flowing across all of our borders regularly into a state with laws that are not keeping up with reality, the Assembly is looking ahead responsibly.

These considerations go beyond age limits and roadside tests. They include, as the hearings are already showing, the effects on communities where a new legal supply of one drug will affect the supply and spread of illegal drugs.

All legislators who show up in Albany come January need to agree that “if” is no longer the important question when it comes to the recreational use of marijuana.