As the debate to legalize cannabis in the state of New York rages on, one report offers to shed some light on the financial incentives that come with legalization. On May 15, 2018, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer published a report estimating the potential size of the state’s legal cannabis market and how much tax revenue it would generate for both the city and the state.
According to the report, the New York state cannabis market could see up to $3.1 billion in annual sales, with up to $1.1 billion being generated in New York City alone. In terms of tax revenue, legal cannabis could generate up to $436 million for New York state and $336 for New York City.
In order to estimate both market size and potential tax revenue, Stringer used several different data points. First Stringer used data from a 2012 survey conducted by the New York City Comptroller’s Office, which estimated the size of New York City’s cannabis market to be approximately $1.65 billion.
Stringer then used aggregate data on marijuana sales in both Washington and Colorado to help improve estimates. Although both New York City and state have larger populations that Washington and Colorado, Stringer estimates that a smaller segment of the New York population uses cannabis.
It is estimated that only 8-10% of New Yorkers use cannabis on a monthly basis; compared to the 17% of Colorado adults and 11% of Washington adults. With the estimated rates, Stringer was able to determine that approximately 1.5 million New York residents use cannabis, of which an estimated 550,000 live in New York City. These estimates do not include the nearly 1 million individuals that work in New York City but commute from out of state, nor does it account for out of state and international tourists.
To estimate tax revenue, Stringer devised a tax structure based off of what other states with legal adult cannabis sales have. Under this theoretical tax structure, state-wide cannabis sales would carry a 10% excise tax on top of the normal 4% state sales tax. Like many other states, cities and municipalities would be free to levy local cannabis taxes up to a certain percent; in this case 25% would be the ceiling.
Assuming both New York City and state were to implement this tax structure, legal adult cannabis sales would generate $336 million and $436 million in tax revenue, respectively. In a statement, Stringer said that aside from the tax revenue generated by cannabis, legalization would also go a long way towards reducing public safety costs and reducing “a source of harm that has afflicted communities of color for so long.”
“This is not just about dollars – it’s about justice. Not only is marijuana an untapped revenue source for the City and the State, but the prosecution of marijuana-related crimes has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic communities for far too long,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “There is simply no reason for New York to be stuck in the dark ages. This new analysis shows just how much New York City and State stand to benefit by moving toward legalization.”
Stringer went on to note that a legalization bill has already been submitted to the state legislature by Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, which is called the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.
Separately, New York City’s Mayor Bill DeBasio called for the New York Police Department to overhaul its marijuana enforcement policies within the next 30 days. The New York Times recently published a story about racial disparity and marijuana arrests. It turns out that 86 percent of those arrested for low-level marijuana possession were either black or Hispanic.