EXCLUSIVE: Could legalized pot lower your taxes?

November 15, 2018 11:21 PM

If New York state legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, will your taxes go down? 

That's a popular question among those who may not be interested in actually using it, but are still deciding whether to support it.


New York isn't forging new ground, there are a number of other states where recreational marijuana is legal and while it's making those states money, it's not creating a windfall of cash.

"Everybody is going to completely overestimate how much money this is," says the former Director of Marijuana Coordination in Colorado, Andrew Freedman. 

Freedman was appointed to launch the recreational-use program there more than five years ago, and says the notion that New York state will see a windfall of tax revenue, just isn't true. 

"I think it has an outsized importance in peoples' heads. They think 50 percent of Colorado tax revenue must come from marijuana," he tells News10NBC.

Last year, the state of Colorado generated $247 million in marijuana tax revenue which amounted to about one percent of its annual budget. 

New York has about 3.5 times the number of people, so adjusting for population and assuming comparable sales and similar tax rate, NYS would generate roughly $875 million. 

That may sound like a lot but it amounts to about half of one percent of this year's budget.  

Keep in mind, it'll cost millions of dollars per year to regulate the recreational marijuana program. 

Money will also have to be set aside for educational programs and ads about the dangers of weed. 

It's also highly likely that millions more would be reserved for drug treatment and research. 

"If you think it's going to pay for daycare centers or high-quality early education for your whole state, it's just not. It's a small amount of money," says John Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado.  

It's also very likely that tax collectors here in New York won't be able to collect on all marijuana sales.  

In states where weed is already legal, the black markets haven't disappeared. 

In fact, law enforcement in Colorado think they've gotten worse. 

Residents of age in Colorado are allowed to grow up to 12 of their own plants but local sheriffs have busted hundreds of illegal home-grow operations much larger than that. 

Mary Kruger, the executive director of Rochester NORML says you won't be able to prevent everyone from breaking the law, but legalizing marijuana at least brings it out of the shadows. 

"It's already in our communities, kids are already getting it. When you regulate it, you take it out of the black market, you put it into a store and then you can go after the people who are giving it to kids," she tells News10NBC.  


Jennifer Lewke

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