Monday, April 15, 2024

Will Legal Cannabis Save New York’s Subway?

Most states that have legalized marijuana for recreational consumption have established a system in which the tax revenue generated through the retail pot trade is used to pay for school and highway construction projects. It’s a good faith provision that cannabis advocates have skillfully included inside voter initiatives. They figure more people will be  inclined to support legal weed if it looks like the money will be used to further education and keep them from driving on jacked-up roads year after year.

But New York is considering a different approach. The state is reportedly discussing the possibility of using marijuana taxes to help salvage the subway system, according to a report from the New York Times.

This tax concept is similar to school and roads scheme. One of New York’s primary issues every year is paying for high-dollar subway maintenance and repairs. But now that the state is pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in 2019 — a move that is estimated to bring an estimated $700 million in annual tax revenue — there might be an opportunity to use that money to fund the $40 billion overhaul that is needed to modernize the subway system.

Governor Cuomo has promised to get legislation rolling on legal weed at the beginning of the year. There is hope that more lawmakers will support the measure if the subway debacle can be incorporated somehow.

And it could work.

The state has appointed a panel to uncover new revenue sources for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Marijuana legalization and about a dozen other ideas are being kicked around. Although the committee admits that the marijuana tax plan would be a good funding source for the M.T.A, they do not appear to be wholeheartedly committed to it.

Democratic Senator Michael Gianaris, who oversees the panel, says “there are a lot of needs we have that the new revenue need to be considered for.” Not even Governor Cuomo’s office has yet to offer its support.

However, a report published earlier this week by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management finds that marijuana legalization is likely the best method for pumping more cash into the mass transit system.

“No new revenue source can match a tax on weed, ” Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center, told The New York Post. “New Yorkers deserve a subway system that is as productive as they are. It is time for New York to legalize and tax cannabis — and to designate the revenues for mass transit.”

It is a plan that most New Yorker would be happy to support. Right now, the subway system is unreliable, and many stations are even closed on weekends for repairs. But there is a strategy in place to renovate the subway at the cost of $40 billion over the next decade. Marijuana taxes could eliminate a large part of the burden without continuing to squeeze the consumer.

Marijuana taxes might not be able to float the entire project, but lawmakers believe it should be a large part of the recreational marijuana discussion. “One source of funding is not going to be enough,” said Democratic Senator Alessandra Biaggi. “Why would we not try to include as many funding streams as possible without having to raise taxes, which a lot of people quite frankly are afraid of doing.”


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