- The Washington Times
Thursday, December 6, 2018

Marijuana legalization is being mulled in New York as a means to raise the revenue needed to modernize the city’s decaying subway system, said leading state Democrats.

Sen. Michael Gianaris, the deputy minority leader of the New York state Senate, and Corey Johnson, the speaker of the New York City Council, both said that lawmakers are looking into marijuana legalization while considering their options for funding expensive subway upgrades, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

“The biggest issue we hear about as elected officials is the state of the subway system,” Mr. Johnson said. “To be able to tie these things together is something that could be highly impactful and potentially transformative.”

Subway improvements are expected to cost $40 billion over the course of a decade, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state-owned group responsible for operating the system.

Legalizing marijuana would generate upwards of $670 million in annual tax revenue, the New York State Health Department predicted in a June report.

Soon to be the second-highest ranking member of the New York state Senate, Mr. Gianaris was appointed in August to serve on the Metropolitan Transportation Sustainability Advisory Workgroup, a 10-person panel tasked with finding new revenue sources for the MTA.

Legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana sales is among a dozen or so ideas being considered by the panel’s members, Mr. Gianaris told The Times.

“There are a lot of needs that we have that new revenues need to be considered for,” he said in an interview. “The MTA is near the top of my list.”

Ten states have passed laws since 2012 legalizing recreational marijuana, including seven with systems in place permitting adults to purchase retail weed from licensed dispensaries.

The first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana sales, Colorado dispensaries generated $247 million in taxes and fees in 2018.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed a panel in July to draft legislation legalizing marijuana in New York. Democrats will take control of the state legislature in 2019 for the first time in a decade, giving a potential weed bill its best odds ever of overcoming Republican opposition, The Times reported.

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