With New York on Brink of Marijuana Legalization, Fierce Debate on Where Tax Revenue Should Go

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With the Democrats regaining control of the New York Senate and Assembly for the first time since 2010, New York is on the cusp of legalizing marijuana.

The question is no longer should New York legalize marijuana, but what legalization will look like. There is a fierce debate right now about where tax revenue should go.

Today, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer published a report Addressing the Harms of Prohibition: What NYC Can do to Support an Equitable Cannabis Industry, which analyzes the economic impacts of marijuana prohibition at the neighborhood level.

The report finds that thousands of New Yorkers, overwhelmingly Black and Latinx, continue to endure the untold financial and social costs of marijuana-related enforcement and calls on the State and the City to take action to ensure that the communities who have been most harmed by policies of the past are able to access the revenue, jobs, and opportunities that a regulated adult-use marijuana program would inevitably generate.

With regard to funds the state will receive from adult-use marijuana, the Comptroller stated, “revenues from legalized adult-use marijuana should be used to address the history of draconian drug laws. Full stop.”

Some drug policy reform advocates agree.

“Given the legacy of immense harm caused by marijuana prohibition in New York – nearly one million New Yorkers have had contact with the criminal justice system under the marijuana arrest crusade – any effort to legalize marijuana must be responsive to the damage perpetrated on individuals and neighborhoods and invest in rebuilding communities as the state closes the book on its shameful war on marijuana,” said Melissa Moore, New York State Deputy Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

“Potential revenues from marijuana legalization must be focused on repairing the tremendous harm of policing and criminalization of communities of color brought on by marijuana prohibition in NY — they shouldn’t be used to fix the subways” said Alyssa Aguilera, co-executive director for VOCAL-NY.

Drug Policy Alliance is hosting the Marijuana: Justice, Equity, and Reinvestment conference in Albany December 11 and 12, which provides a blueprint for how marijuana legalization can be rooted in racial, economic, and social justice.

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