New York Comptroller Says Legal Market Would Earn State Billions

NYC_5th_AVE_By Stephan Guarch
Photo: Stephan Guarch/ shutterstock

NEW YORK — New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer says that the state could establish a three-billion-dollar industry by legalizing weed and taxing it, according to CNBC. Stringer says that New York City alone would earn more than $335 million from taxing marijuana, and the state would earn nearly half-a-million every year in tax revenue.

According to Stringer, roughly 1.5 million people who reside in New York State use marijuana, with more than half-a-million users residing in New York City. Stringer estimated that the average marijuana consumer spends $2080 per year on weed. A 10 percent excise tax and 4 percent sales tax would earn the state $436 million annually.

The financial reporter said that legalizing the drug could benefit the economy for education and healthcare. Stringer also noted that tourism would increase as a result of legalization, adding that it is now legal in 9 states and it would be na´ve to ignore the fact that people have been and will be smoking weed for decades to come. He cited states like Colorado and Washington that have legalized recreational marijuana.

Medical Marijuana is Already Legal, and Support for Legalizing Recreational is Abundant

Medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 2014, and a new Quinnipiac University Poll published on May 3 found that 63 percent of voters in New York support marijuana legalization for recreational use.

Legalizing marijuana has gained the support of several politicians. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced her support of legalizing the drug when she signed onto the Marijuana Justice Act introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently announced that he was in support of removing marijuana from the Schedule I classification of the federal government's list of controlled substances.

Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon also supports legalization, noting that legalization is a racial justice issue. Sixty-two percent of New Yorkers say that Black people are more likely to be arrested for marijuana than White people.

Nixon agreed and said that putting people of color in jail for smoking pot while White people are exempt needs to end. Eighty-seven percent of marijuana arrests in New York City are of Black and Hispanic people.

Nixon's announcement prompted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to rethink his opposition to legalization of late, telling reporters that believing pot won't be legal in New York eventually would be avoiding reality.

The Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. publicly announced that the city would no longer be prosecuting people for smoking marijuana or possession, according to The Washington Post.

The announcement happened just days after The New York Times published data finding that the NYPD arrests Black people for marijuana at 15 times the rate of White people in Manhattan.

Vance said the District Attorney's Office would no longer prosecute pot cases beginning Aug. 1, adding that the move will result in approximately 200 cases being prosecuted annually instead of around 5,000.

The District Attorney said that the change reflects the Manhattan D.A.'s office commitment to an equal justice system, noting that only cases that demonstrate public safety concerns would be prosecuted.

Stringer said that legalization is not only about money for the state, but that it is also about justice, noting that marijuana law enforcement has disproportionately devastated Black and Hispanic people for too long. He said that some of the revenue generated could be spent to help people most damaged by the decades of criminalization.

In the meantime, 60 people are arrested every day for marijuana possession in the state of New York, and more than 80 percent of those arrested are people of color.