New York City Comptroller’s Office: Legalizing Marijuana in NYC Would Yield $431 Million Annually in Savings and Revenue

The regulation and taxation of marijuana for New York City residents age 21 and over would yield an estimated $431 million in annual savings and revenue, according to a report released this week by the New York City Comptroller’s Office. The mission of the Comptroller’s Office is to ensure the financial health of New York City by advising the Mayor, the City Council, and the public of the City’s financial condition.

The report, entitled “Regulating and Taxing Marijuana: The Fiscal Impact on NYC,” estimates that regulating and taxing the commercial production and retail sales of cannabis to adults would yield an estimated $400 million annually. This figure is based on existing estimates regarding cannabis’ present market price and demand in New York City, as well as by calculating the imposition of an excise tax (on commercial production) and sales tax (on retail sales).

Authors further estimate that $31 million dollars would be saved annually in eliminating citywide misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests [NY State Penal Law 221.10 — possession of any amount of cannabis in public view], which in recent years have totaled approximately 50,000 arrests per year — largely as a result of law enforcement’s aggressive use of ‘stop-and-frisk’ tactics. Persons arrested are often under age 25 and disproportionately are those of color. Combined, blacks and Hispanics make up 45 percent of marijuana users in New York City, but account for 86 percent of possession arrests, the Comptroller’s report found.

The Office did not attempt to quantify the broader economic impacts of legalization, including the costs of lost time, work, and other opportunities currently imposed on those arrested. The report’s authors also acknowledged that they did not attempt to quantify the costs of incarceration, which are largely borne by the state, or other secondary fiscal impacts of legalization, such as the positive or negative effects on public health spending.

Following the release of the study, City Comptroller and Mayoral candidate John Liu spoke out in favor of legalizing the consumption of cannabis by adults, stating: “New York City’s misguided war on marijuana has failed, and its enforcement has damaged far too many lives, especially in minority communities. It’s time for us to implement a responsible alternative. Regulating marijuana would keep thousands of New Yorkers out of the criminal justice system, offer relief to those suffering from a wide range of painful medical conditions, and make our streets safer by sapping the dangerous underground market that targets our children.”

A summary of the report is available online from the NYC Comptroller’s Office here. The full report is available here.

50 thoughts

  1. The US government spends roughly $20billion a year fighting a war against marijuana, a war against the citizens of this country. With national debt growing out of control and an economy in recession they can not afford to keep this war going. What we are seeing now is their “exit strategy”. Few at the federal level are willing to admit the failings of this war, they know it’s nearly over. More and more at the state and local level will continue to speak out in favor of legalization. The best way to win elections is to support pro-marijuana legislation. This trend will only continue to grow. This war is in it’s death throws. We’ve almost won

  2. I have been saying for years, if it is about the money, then marijuana would be legal. NYC has been loosing money at the rate of 431 million dollars a year just to continue marijuana prohibition. Made even dumber since marijuana is decrimilized in New York.

    These are the actions of complusive gambler, you know you can’t make money on betting, that it is a loosing strategy and an embrassment, but you just can’t stop from getting in deeper and deeper. Prohibition, it is a symptom of a mental disorder.

  3. they should have included all pot convictions, not just the misdemeanors, because once it’s legal there will be no pot dealers, so in theory they would also save a lot of money incarcerating the thousands of pot dealers in new york…

  4. This is getting so exciting! The legalization effort is like a boulder rolling down the hill at this point! And I was thrilled to find out that a majority of Americans thought what I did–that mj would be legal within the next 5-10 years. Now that the discussion is being held more and more openly, in mainstream median and politics no less, and without shame, fear, or Drug Warrior appeasing qualifiers, it can’t lose! Every day it seems another domino falls to medical marijuana, or to drug law reform, or to open legalization, and every day the squalling from the Drug War profiteers becomes louder and more irrelevant. How sweet! 😀

  5. The problem with this study is that those who are for the status quo will claim that $431 million is chump change today, because today everything is measured in billions and trillions.

  6. The greed of a few industrialists in the 1930’s created the prohibition of cannabis and the greed of the many will end it.

  7. New York City needs cannabis money to avoid becoming Detroit.

    No one wants to have their retirement benefits lost or shaved down after a career of hard work. Let’s take NYCPD for one. Police and firefighters have retirement benefits, pensions and what have you. They also have bills to pay so if you want to keep them honest you have to pay them a decent salary so that they are not in need of money and thus go to work for criminal organizations and the like.

    Last time I checked, the federal government was NOT bailing out Detroit. That means that if there is a bailout that the state, Michigan, is bailing out the city of Detroit.

    What about New York City going bankrupt down the road?

    Governor Andrew Cuomo needs to get cannabis legal in New York state. Governor, if you can’t get the entire state of New York to legalize medical, adult recreational and industrial cannabis, then legalize medical in the entire state and in the same legislation give New York City the autonomy to legalize adult recreational use. That means NYC can legalize recreational use and the state will not use state resources or money to interfere or enforce cannabis prohibition.

    Andrew, if you don’t want to do that or can’t even manage to get that accomplished (pitiful) then you just may be setting New York state up to bailing out New York City down the road. This is not a can you want to kick down the road. You want to pick up this can and keep the bankruptcy problem from landing a the future mayor’s and governor’s desks.

    You can get your brother over there on CNN to stick up for you and have a Synergistic
    Pro-Cannabis situation with CNN and the rest of the media echo chambers.

    If you can’t even do the MMJ at the state level, which is even more pitiful, Andrew, then I think you should make it known public that you will NOT allow New York state resources and funds to be used to enforce cannabis prohibition in New York City if NYC doesn’t wait for the state and legalizes medical and adult recreational cannabis in its metropolitan area. That way you could remain wishy-washy and pass the buck on to NYC.

    So how do you get cannabis legalization done in NYC? The mayor and NYC Council simply vote and poof it’s all legal? A NYC legalization ballot measure or measures, regardless of whatever is on the state books?

    Sure, they want this money, but they can’t have it unless they do something. Okay, so the shakers and movers and rollers better get moving. People should be able to go the The Big Apple, see a play, eat at a nice restaurant, relax at a cannabis shop instead of an alcohol establishment if they want, go shopping, visit family, and do whatever if they live there or are just visiting the city.

    The longer you wait, the more you are routing the flow of cannabis money to cartels instead of the public coffers. Maybe you could ask the cartels to donate to the City’s retirement plans once the tax revenue flow can’t keep up with the money you need to fund pensions and health care and shit.

  8. Im a NY’er through and through and have hoped for a long time NY would be ahead of the curve. I hoped it would be us that would set an example to the world on how responsible usage is not only a bad thing, but its in fact an excellent thing.

    I thought Cuomo would deliver on a state level. Decriminalizing is a wool over the eyes though. I want full legalization and if Liu is in support of it, I’m in support of him.

  9. You can hardly pass a law promoting flags and puppies in NY. Our legislature is so broken that no matter how the polity feels about something, nothing gets done. John Liu may just have convinced me to vote for him in the NYC race. (not that he has much of a chance….)

  10. As in, I just checked my polling place and will probably go bother to vote to express my appreciation for his statement.

  11. Only a stupid city would pass on that kind of return knowing that what they are trying to prevent is going to happen anyway. Unless, their piece of the pie is even more valuable on the corruption side. What to do???

  12. I get the fact that many laws in this country are tied to greed and profit. Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of greed and profit at the expense/peril of their fellow men, laws could be based on truth, compassion, science, and the common good?

    That dream is what I hold for America!

  13. This is pathetic. Here I am, once again, without what I want: to feel good and enjoy life, but I cant cause I have no money or dealers, and because pot is illegal. Some fucking asshole said he was good and we drove 60 miles only to get to the spot and text him just to have him reply, oh gee, thought i had some, but sorry, wasting $40 gas. Now that Im out my other friend is getting sick of me calling everyday. It really sucks having to rely on the goodness of others. I wish i could have the pursuit of happiness with something good and safe that actually makes me happy. Guess its time to go back to being morbidly depressed thanks to weed still being illegal.

  14. Someone probably already posted something along this line but… I hope the governor of NY decides to pass something similar for the entire State too. It would be nice, to be able to go to NY for a day or two, just to go and smoke pot legally.

  15. all the grey/white haired trickey dicks get out! we are the majoity! yes i’ll be 60 in 2 wks, BUT, i’ve been against the taking of freedoms a long time. i’ve been a stripper, a nurse, a step mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a voter, (ind), a foreigner, a victim, a friend, a disabled person, a texan, a disgruntled american, a rocker, a believer, a seeker of knowledge, i cried for the losses of the kennedys, king, malcolm, viet nam, and yet the same aholes are f–king it up still! just a genius, trying to figure out why we can’t solve the simple problems of mj legalization. fat cats won’t part with the $, are they the real dealers? JL: come together!

  16. Yet, who will provide Republican leader Skelos a big enough “donation”, to not block a Senate vote?

  17. I had read earlier Pennsylvania could save $350 million in drug war costs and garner another $50 million in tax revenues from ending prohibition. The good news is we are starting to see these numbers even talked about.

  18. Just like gays in the military, this will happen. If we keep doing what were doing. I found some bud under my desk so I feel way better, thank God! Dont get lazy. We havent achieved our goal 100% YET. I am not living in a state that even allows for medical use yet(PA) and dont have the money for a sack of green let alone move to CO or WA. Let God help us love life legally.

  19. Why all the Hatred for Cuomo. He’s taken as bold a stand for Reform as anyone should expect. He has a Republican Majority in the legislature who steadfastly refuse to compromise on decriminalization. I don’t get it.

  20. Want to save some real money? Make a law banning Congress from joining firms after office and taking a penny of outside money other than what is handed to them in their $168,000- $172,000 check from the Federal Government.. Take out the funding and there is no reason to make such shady deals.. The rest of the country will come around but big money makes great people do bad things in the name of profit.. Good Luck..

  21. i live in sux cuz us texans lie next to rick perry hadnt even came across legalizing medical mj.instead he passed a law on ppl who have food stamps to drug test..fuck u rick perry im movin to new york!!!!!!!!!

  22. It would seem if there are one million main cannabis users, each will have to provide $400 a year in taxes alone to make up the projected $400 million revenue for the City.

    I do 25-mg vapetokes in a long-stemmed one-hitter and find an average of 3 tokes a day (some days more than others, occasional abstinent days too) quite enough to provide cannabinoid inspiration when needed. This adds up to about an ounce a year (typically under $300) so I don’t see purchasers deserting the friend across town for this heavily taxed deal at a dispensary.

  23. We want to feel good. Animals have more rights than we do in cats legaly allowed to use catnip! Thats right, I said it. Catnip is in the same family as… Marijuana. Look it up. And its no surprise they love it. LOVE. God dam it. St. Nick out.

  24. Not only would New York save millions, every state in the union would also. The goverment would save billions fighting a war that they have not a chance of winning. I say if one state has it all should have it, because it is a lot more safe than liquor.

  25. re: Darrell Brown

    “Not only would New York save millions, every state in the union would also. The goverment would save billions fighting a war that they have not a chance of winning.”

    yeah, no doubt.

    problem (among others)
    is the same with pharmaceutical concepts-
    that is

    There is more money in TREATMENT than curing
    and there has been thought to be
    more money in prohibition than legalization-
    but this is changing.

  26. This is simply too much revenue to ignore. Putting an end to these policies in favor of enacting new policies of regulation is obviously ideal and it’s about time the masses were made aware so that their political representatives could make clear their intentions.

  27. Anyone see the news that our VP drug warriors son, Beau Biden, is in MD Anderson for a mass in his brain? Maybe someone should get him some info about cannabinoids and brain cancer…

  28. Alas, money talks. And on good authority here since the City comptroller is running for Mayor.
    Like any other commodity, at the heart of cannabis legalization and distribution we have basic economics: supply and demand. Revenue has to be adjusted for an increase in supply and a fall in price. Product investment has to account for innovation, techonology and manufacturing costs. Politicans have to adjust their dialogue and say “we” were deceived and not “I deceived you… but I turned a new leaf… and now we’re going to smoke that leaf…” -(The latter of which would be more credible and successful in campaigns if our leaders were brave enough to admit the TRUTH).
    For people who are just tuning in to the marijuana debate, it must be a panicking, flabberghasting experience to reach the epiphany that our government has spent so much of our own tax dollars on deceiving and exploiting us all of our lives. I for one, who consider myself well educated on marijuana policy issues find myself constantly surprised to discover yet another silent partner to prohibition propoganda providing paranoia for profit. Pathetic… positively punishable! (Ok, I’m done…possibly…)
    For those of us familiar with the history of cannabis prohibition we can separate the two sides of the legalization debate by isolating institutions that have enterprised on restricting legal cannabis supplies.
    On “the dark side of the Force” we have the following list that profits from cannabis prohibition:

    Petrochemicals, the oil industry, timber, certain building materials (like hardi-board and fiberglass insulation), alcohol, tobacco, firearms, (AND the ATF), pharmacueticals, private corrections facilities, faux treatment facilities, Dupont, Monsantos, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Mexican military, the world’s illegal cartels, Darth Vader and Alec Baldwin.
    But on the other side of the spectrum, some of the very same institutions stand to gain more money for more people. Some of the opponents, (like Alec Baldwin and various poiticians), will rely on their poor acting skills and our short attention spans to “switch sides” of the debate. Ah, the hubris of our tragic heroes. We are truly living in the denoumovement an epic cannabis tragedy, with hypocritical conflicts of Apollonian-Dyonisian proportions.
    Then the tragic irony of prohibition is once again revealed: I was about to write the “good list” when I realized that the same industries I just wrote down stand to profit from legalization, (if you simply trade in Darth Vader and Alec Baldwin with Yoda and Paul Armentano) …but in a more diverse and decentralized way. In other words, more profit in terms of revenue, cost of living and quality of life for more people under legalization, instead of just a few people controlling the supply and cost for our daily needs such as clean air, energy, medicine, fuel and food. Oh, and let’s not forget about water, which is at the center of cannabis legalization whether we know it or not: Hemp is more productive and uses less water than corn. How do we even begin to calcualte the monetary value of all THAT?
    The problem for legalization is only for a few of the wealthy; like cartel leaders, DEA directors and private prison owners having to give up the sum of their wealth so that MORE people can have MORE wealth (generated by local cannabis cultivation and innovation) … more than one prohibitionist can gain alone.
    So what we’re talking about here with ending cannabis prohibition has not only to do with generating revenue for education and reducing health care costs, but the feared “redistribution of wealth,” that was campaigned during the whole bank bail out fiasco in 2008.
    When we talk about cannabis legalization, what we are discussing are the rules and regulations of an agricultural revolution; A technological Golden-Green Age with limitless potential revenue from innovation for everything to carbon-trapping hempcrete to biodegradable red-solo cups made from cellulose hemp oil; Can you imagine the commercial? “Red solo cups made from Hemp Industries of America; When you’re done drinking you can roll your cup up and smoke it!” The jingle would be like, “Red solo cup! I roll you up! Let’s have a partyyyy… Proceed to partyyyy…”
    Okay, I strayed from topic a LITTLE, but I’m still on point. We’re only measuring revenue based on the costs of the drug war. (Which alone are quite substantial) But what about arrested development? Our politicians haven’t even weighed in the potential income from cannabis innovations and cannabis education, the great pillars of American world leadership and enterprise. So put THAT in your pipe and SMOKE it Michelle Leonhart!

  29. This could happen if we dont get so high that we lose control. And if you do get real high and get paranoid, eat some cheetos. Set and setting. Dont lose control. God, could be really good. Wow! Peace

  30. Julian, if your goal is realize the end of narcissist thought; then clean water is just for you and your family, everyone else can F-off. If they don’t consider it “their water”, they will happily poison the town’s well to make “your water” less valuable. Depleting resources and quality of life for everyone is the narcissist’s hidden agenda. It is like genius, but in reverse.

    We have to stop voting for people that love themselves and lie to us day in and out. People like Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Jim McGreevey, Mitt Romney to name a few; aren’t worth our votes.

    Stacking worthless manipulators against each other for our votes and power is like betting against the tide coming in. People that deal in lies for their income, in turn, write laws that are full of lies and then we pay for it over and over. Then the medias argue about which pieces of crap are the lest odorous and act like these creeps are role models.

  31. @Julian: Good list, but you need to add the drug testing industry in your list of Drug War profiteers. They run a scam service based on lies and public ignorance and panic, and the public needs to be made aware of this. Over 90% of all positive tests are for marijuana, so when it’s legalized they will have lost the numbers that “prove” how many drug users are being kept out of the workforce (you know, emphasizing the hard drug users, then showing the numbers while omitting the fact that close to 100% of those positives are for MJ). One of the biggest opponents of the laws in CO and WA is an ex-DEA agent who, lo and behold, owns a drug testing company–a common destination for ex-DEA charlatans, after all the Drug War is a lucrative scam, why would you leave that to get a real job? The first question asked about the CO law was “can employers still fire people for testing positive for MJ?” and the only thing that made that answer “yes” was the doomed federal law, which is why the drug testing companies are going to fight to their inevitable death to protect it.

    And insurance companies, which are likely using drug testing as a method to screen out people with protected but inconvenient health problems. The Washington Police in 1988 collected specimens for drug testing but actually used them to screen for pregnancy in secret. If they got caught doing that once, do you think they really stopped doing it, especially since there is little to no oversight or regulation on the drug testing industry. Mark my words, when MJ is legalized and they open the books on the drug testing companies they are going to find one hell of a lot of corruption.

    Drug testing is the most pervasive violation of our civil rights that was brought on by the Drug War, especially since it gives all corporations a window into our bodies to answer questions they aren’t legally permitted to ask (like “do you have any health problem we don’t want on our insurance?”), and yet for some reason it is the most invisible one. More people need to be talking about this problem. Definitely the drug testing companies need to be included in lists of dishonest industries that profit off of prohibition, but there also needs to be more awareness spread about this indefensible practice.
    guest posts welcome. share!

  32. @Julian: One omission from your list: drug testing companies. Drug testing must be the most prolific violation of our civil rights brought on by the drug war, but for some reason it is also the most invisible and ignored. But the drug testing industry is also a major force behind prohibition, since over 90% of positive tests are for marijuana. In fact, one of the biggest active opponents of the CO and WA laws, one of the biggest forces behind the effort to neutralize those laws, is an ex-DEA agent who–guess what?–just so happens to own a drug testing company.

  33. The Gov’t won’t allow the legalization of marijuana because all of the money certain people/groups would lose in industries such as; petroleum, energy, pharmacuetical, and timber to name a few.

  34. 431 million is being quite skimpy on the estimate. Each department in one state can spend about 2-3 million easily. Considering Parole expenses, court costs, tax revenue lost due to imprisonment, and most importantly, the cost for THC testing. Be it urine, hair, or blood content, merely eliminating the cost for drug testing based strictly on thc would save hundreds of thousands.

    Not only would law enforcement incur this savings, but any city that has allowed public school random testing would also save quite a bit of revenue.

    @Dace Evans, you are absolutely right. Bush Jr’s salary was 250k per year in office but in a single year, he gross incomed over 2 million usd.

  35. We have to use righteous anger to cut through the negativity of this anti pot BS. No one minds the ones that actually harm like salvia divinorum. Azna Om. We want to enjoy life in the safety of our house, buying stuff in a store instead of a drug house. We cannot and will not let them win. For Christs sake we need a drug in this negative reality.

  36. demonhype…spot on friend….a huge problem and rarely mentioned it seems. im in a 35 yr job and have been hair tested the last 4 yrs. our private life is violated by the people we work for..we are asked to leave our private life at home yet, we must take our work home each gets worse every godamm month i work there yet, it is a good job. testing will be the LAST thing they will deal with….

  37. @demonhype: Thanks for the addition. It seemed necessary to line up all the evil players on the list, if nothing more so that people like yourself could spotlight the biggest fraudelnt industries I had missed. Forgive me: I’m a general contractor in the state of Texas. I havn’t seen a piss test since they dragged me out of Canyon Lake in my underwear when I was 21 and threw me in the can for my little sister’s weed. Distribution to a minor if I claimed it was hers. Felony. So I gave the property owner from the Army Corps of Engineers the rest of my whiskey, and he dropped charges of tresspassing. What a rebel. Still had my long hair.
    Ironically, I’ve built a new home for some clients a couple of years ago who did criminal backround checks on me and told me “Yeah, we found your mugshot. Arrested for cannabis posession? Oh, we don’t care. So on to our flooring…”
    That’s about the what a dirty piss test for cannabis will be for anyone’s resume pretty soon.

  38. OK if this is put on Ballot and it’s Voted on….and THE governor does not sign bill ..THEN YOU HAVE TYRANNY IN NY STATE!!!!!! plain and simple!! This is Not Up to the Politicians ANYMORE !! it’s WE the People and MAJORITY RULES!!!

  39. I wonder if you legalised pot would most users in New York upgrade to illegal drugs like cocaine and Ice just to carry on doing something illegal?

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