Photo credit: Times Union

As support for marijuana legalization grows across the nation, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer today released a new report on the financial and social impact of legalizing marijuana sales in New York.

Stringer estimates the potential market for marijuana in New York State at roughly $3.1 billion, including approximately $1.1 billion in New York City. By applying tax rates in line with other states, New York State could reap as much $436 million annually in new tax revenue from legal marijuana sales, while New York City could garner as much as $335 million – funds that could be used to invest in communities damaged by decades of criminalizing marijuana usage and possession, Stringer states.

“Not only is marijuana an untapped revenue source for the city and the state, but the prosecution of marijuana-related crimes has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic communities for far too long,” says New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Legalizing marijuana and reclassifying past convictions would be critical steps towards turning the page on decades of failed policies.”

Stringer bases his estimates on data from Washington State and Colorado, which legalized marijuana sales in 2014. The potential revenue of $3.1 billion in New York State and the $1.1 billion in New York City, is a conservative estimate, according to the report. The numbers presented by the comptroller do not account for the potential impact of nearly one million people who work but don’t live in the city, and who might purchase marijuana if it was legalized. The figures also do not take into account the impact of foreign and domestic tourism on New York’s potential marijuana market.

Image credit: NYC Comptroller’s Office

Along with establishing a new stream of revenue, legalizing marijuana could reduce costs for public safety, help mitigate public health problems related to the opioid crisis, and help drive broader economic and social benefits that will accrue after eliminating a source of harm that has afflicted communities of color for so long.

In 2018, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act was introduced to the NY State Senate, a bill that would legalize adult possession, while also creating a process to reclassify past convictions related to marijuana and to re-sentence individuals currently incarcerated as a result of a prior marijuana-related offense.

“This is not just about dollars – it’s about justice,” says Stringer. “This is an opportunity to do what’s right and build up the very communities that criminalization tore down.”

Go here to read the comptroller’s full report.

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