The leading national group opposed to modern marijuana reform, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has this new report seeking to document costs that could flow from marijuana legalization in New York. Here is the report’s executive summary:
The proposed legalization of marijuana in New York will result in higher costs to state and local law enforcement and emergency services. Towns and cities across the state will face increased budgetary pressures at a time when New York’s tax burden is already a serious drag on the economy. In fact, according to the Tax Foundation, New York has the highest state and local tax burden in the country as a percent of the economy (12.7 percent) and fourth highest per person property tax burden ($2,782).1
Marijuana legalization in New York will have both significant budgetary and societal costs. In fact, law enforcement and emergency services costs could account for a majority of the revenue projected by the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, to be realized by legalization.
First, marijuana legalization will be a major cost driver for state and local law enforcement and emergency services agencies. Keeping New York’s roads (from DWIs) and communities (from black market operations) safe will require additional drug policing with Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), drug testing equipment, and drug-sniffing dogs all of which will likely require expensive new equipment acquisitions and training. Also, dealing with the consequences of increased impaired driving, and the corresponding increase in car crashes will lead to higher costs to law enforcement and emergency services.
Overall, upfront budgetary costs to law enforcement and emergency services could range from $190.3 to 235.2 million. Ongoing annual estimated costs range from $157.5 to $192.2 million. Car crashes would cost another $44 million between 2018 and 2028.
Second, car crashes have a broader negative societal impact in terms of increased hospitalizations (paid for, in part, by public health agencies), emergency departments, and deaths.
Overall societal costs between 2018 and 2028 would mean $388 million in hospitalization charges (of which $34.5 million will be paid for by public funded sources such as Medicaid and Medicare), $253 million in emergency department visits, and $4.3 billion in the value of lost lives.
In the end, marijuana legalization will create numerous destructive waves through New York ranging from significant budgetary hardship to law enforcement and emergency services to the shattered lives of people involved in car crashes. New York’s law enforcement and emergency services will bear the immediate brunt of these circumstances which will create tradeoffs from reducing other existing services potentially impacting public safety, to increasing local budgets and taxes, boosting New York’s already highest-in-the-nation level of taxation.