New York Should Legalize Marijuana Now

A cannabis tourist smells the marijuana product at a recreational dispensary in Denver, Colorado.   Photo Credit: My 420 Tours

A cannabis tourist smells the marijuana product at a recreational dispensary in Denver, Colorado.

Photo Credit: My 420 Tours

By WALTER YOUNG

The new year could be going up in smoke for those living in New York State, as Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to make marijuana recreationally legal “once and for all” on December 17. This change has been a long time coming, and should be a call for celebration.

City and state officials have taken steps toward legalization over the past year, such as reducing the punishments for marijuana possession. As Kayla Simas from AM New York reports, with the Democratic Party poised to take control of both houses of the New York State Legislature, it is very possible that legalization may become a reality in 2019.

Kassandra Frederique, the state director of the Drug Police Alliance, said this was Governor Cuomo’s “golden opportunity to get marijuana legalization done the right way, right away.”

This would offer many business opportunities to young entrepreneurs and open a large amount of jobs for New Yorkers, starting with the steps of growing the plant and going all the way to its sale. Legalization would bring in a boatload of money for the New York economy, as it’s projected to be a $3.1 billion market for the state. 

Moreover, if we apply tax rates in line with other states, New York could bring in $436 million from tax revenue from the sale of legal weed, with New York City possibly pulling in $335 million alone, the New York Times reported.

New York would also have an increase in “marijuana tourism,” where people travel to other states just to buy and use legal weed. And although some may say we already have too many people coming to New York, if they have money in hand, we should welcome them with open arms. 

The state of Colorado made $287 million off legal marijuana in 2017, as reported by Mike Davis from APP. If New York is the first state in the region to legalize it, we would see a large cash flow and boom in tax revenue off these tourists.    

The money may even be invested in communities damaged for decades by the criminalization of the use and possession of marijuana, as Thomas Franck from CNBC reported. 

This money could be used to do needed repairs on our subway lines, which are out of date and disgustingly dirty. It would cost nearly $40 billion to repair the subways, but legalization could bring in enough money to get a jump start on the repairs by adding more money to the state budget. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on December 19 released a task force report that fully endorsed a legal framework for the sale of marijuana in the five boroughs. The panel recommended taxed sales to adults 21 and older, the same legal age as alcohol. In medical cases, the state should go further. The plant should be allowed to be given to those younger than 21, when prescribed by a doctor, as it can help with the pain that some children suffer from, though it should not be given to them in a smokable form.

Mr. de Blasio said, “I have been convinced that we can establish a regulatory framework that keeps our streets safe, rights the wrongs of the past, and gives economic opportunity to communities hit hardest by the war on drugs.”  

 The mayor also said that marijuana-related convictions would be expunged if the law is passed. This would mean that those serving sentences or who have marijuana-related crimes would now have the ability to start over and possibly proceed on a better path in life. Since September 1, instead of being put under arrest, New Yorkers have been given a fine when caught smoking weed in public. No person should be going to prison just for smoking a joint.

“We must also end the needless and unjust criminal convictions and the debilitating criminal stigma,”  said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

I’m not the only one who wants to see this change either. According to a recent Gallup poll, two out of three Americans support legalizing marijuana. 

If marijuana becomes legal in New York, it would bring nothing but good to the state. Not only would it offer tons of jobs, but it would also lead to a boost in the state economy. Neighborhoods could be reformed, and subway systems repaired with the money drawn from legalizing marijuana. And most of all, many people would receive a fresh start, as crimes involving marijuana would be expunged. This plant could be the seed of future growth for New York.