Marijuana funding to go to MTA

AUTODIDACT 17 | 1/10/2019, 1:36 p.m.
With 10 states across the country, including Washington, D.C., recently legalizing recreational cannabis, New York looks to join and reap ...
NYC subway/MTA Wikipedia

With 10 states across the country, including Washington, D.C., recently legalizing recreational cannabis, New York looks to join and reap the financial rewards. An NYU Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management report indicated that legalization and taxation of recreational cannabis could create substantial funding which “would provide a way for the MTA to address many of their operating and capital requirements.”

“No new revenue source can match a tax on weed,” surmised Rudin Center director, Mitchell Moss. “New Yorkers deserve a subway system that is as productive as they are. It is time for New York to legalize and tax cannabis—and to designate the revenues for mass transit. MTA funds are either going to come from painful taxes, or from pain-relieving cannabis.”

In June, a state health commissioner’s report recommended legalizing marijuana, adding that it could generate up to $670 million in annual tax revenue. The black market fetches approximately $3.5 billion annually.

The MTA projects a billion-dollar deficit by 2022, even if March’s proposed fare hike is approved, and estimates it’ll need more than $40 billion over 10 years to modernize their system.

The Rudin Center report concluded that 62 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana. In 2017, Colorado’s marijuana shops earned $1.5 billion while generating $247 million in taxes and fees. Several states have already reported “higher-than-expected tax revenues.”

Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo previously opposed legalizing the “gateway drug,” he recently revealed that a bill would be proposed during January’s legislative session. “[T]he situation on marijuana is changing,” he said, noting that Massachusetts and New Jersey are planning to approve pot, too.

The report, citing BDS Analytics—a leading source for cannabis industry data—shows North America’s legal marijuana industry produced $9.2 billion in 2017 and “is projected to generate $47.3 billion over the next decade.”

“This report argues that the subways need a dedicated revenue source with the potential for growth in future decades—one that does not divert funds from other public services, and that has yet to be tapped by the state and local government,” it reads.

Several local elected officials also got involved.

“One source of funding is not going to be enough,” cautioned State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi. “Why would we not try to include as many funding streams as possible without having to raise taxes, which a lot of people quite frankly are afraid of doing?”

Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito estimated weed legalization could generate $1.3 billion annually in taxes, and her “Weed for Rails” plan supports legalizing marijuana as long as portions of the proceeds are “invested” in inner-city communities that have long been disproportionately targeted by cops for marijuana possession.

Comptroller Scott Stringer’s May report mentions how residents in poor inner-city communities are consistently profiled, adding that a “portion of tax revenue from future weed sales should be invested in those neighborhoods.” It noted legalizing marijuana could net $336 million in city tax revenue and $436 million statewide.

City Council Speaker and possible 2021 mayoral candidate Corey Johnson said, “To be able to tie these things together is something that could be highly impactful and potentially transformative.”

Moss suggested, “The MTA could do well by actually having marijuana available at stations. We’ve heard people who propose that maybe the way to have a cure for the tension at Penn station is to have a waiting lobby just for those who are smoking. Maybe you don’t get so grumpy when the subway doesn’t come.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Sustainability Advisory Workgroup 10-person panel is also pursuing options. Some mentioned portions of marijuana proceeds going to homelessness and education.