- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The governor and mayor of New York on Tuesday proposed a plan for improving the Big Apple’s subway system using tax revenue generated from legalized recreational marijuana.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, included marijuana taxes in a 10-point plan for transforming and funding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, the agency that operates the New York City Subway system.

In addition to funds generated by a proposed tolling system, the plan lists possible revenue streams including a new internet sales tax and the likely legalization of recreational marijuana.

“Congestion pricing tolls would be supplemented with State and City revenue from a fixed amount of the new internet sales tax derived from sales in New York City, with a growth factor, and a percentage of the State and City revenue from the cannabis excise tax,” the Democrats said in a press release touting the plan.

Revenue created from those tolls and taxes, according to the plan, would be “placed in a ‘lockbox’ to provide a funding source necessary to ensure the capital needs of the MTA can be met, with priority given to the subway system, new signaling, new subway cars, track and car repair, accessibility, buses and bus system improvements and further investments in expanding transit availability to areas in the outer boroughs that have limited mass transit options.”

Marijuana is prohibited under federal law, but most states have passed legislation permitting its use for medicinal purposes, including New York in 2014.

Seven states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington state – have passed further legalization allowing retail marijuana dispensaries to operate in the face of federal prohibition, and both Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio have recently announced their support for having New York follow suit.

New York stands to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue by legalizing, taxing and regulating recreational marijuana sales, Mr. Cuomo claimed last month. Improving the New York City Subway, meanwhile, would cost roughly $40 billion over the course or a decade, MTA predicted previously.

Sen. Michael Gianaris, the deputy minority leader of the New York state Senate, and Corey Johnson, the speaker of the New York City Council, said last year that lawmakers were weighing the possibility of putting potential pot taxes toward subway upgrades.

Former opponents of legalization, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio both formally put their weight behind defying marijuana prohibition several weeks later.

Mr. Cuomo last month proposed legalizing marijuana within New York and imposing a 20 percent state tax, a 2 percent local tax and a per-gram tax paid by growers. 

“It generates approximately $300 million in tax revenue and creates good union jobs that we need,” Mr. Cuomo predicted.

The first state to legalize retail marijuana sales, Colorado has reaped over $927 million in related tax revenue in the five years since allowing pot shops to open their doors to non-patients, regulators announced earlier this month.

One of the more recent states to legalize marijuana, California collected a total of $345.2 million in related tax revenue as a result of the first year’s worth of recreational sales, state officials said last week.

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