Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New York City government report in favor of government regulation and taxation of private cannabis use

Regulating and Taxing Marijuana: The Fiscal Impact on NYC

Comptroller Seeks End to Wholesale Arrests of Minority Youth; Generate More Than $400 Million Annually for Higher Education

(From the Office of New York City Comptroller John C. Liu)
Contact : E.J. Kessler, (212) 669-3747 August 14, 2013
Full Report []
Report Summary []

NEW YORK, N.Y. — City Comptroller John C. Liu today proposed regulating and taxing the sale of marijuana for personal use by adults in New York City. In a report released today, the Comptroller’s office argued that the change would curb the significant social damage caused by prohibiting the substance and generate more than $400 million annually for higher education.
“New York City’s misguided war on marijuana has failed, and its enforcement has damaged far too many lives, especially in minority communities,” said Comptroller Liu. “It’s time for us to implement a responsible alternative. Regulating marijuana would keep thousands of New Yorkers out of the criminal justice system, offer relief to those suffering from a wide range of painful medical conditions, and make our streets safer by sapping the dangerous underground market that targets our children. As if that weren’t enough, it would also boost our bottom line.”
Liu proposed that the City use the revenues generated by the regulation of marijuana to reduce CUNY tuition by as much as 50 percent for New York City residents. “In this way, we’ll invest in young people’s futures, instead of ruining them,” he said. “By regulating marijuana like alcohol, New York City can minimize teens’ access to marijuana, while at the same time reducing their exposure to more dangerous drugs and taking sales out of the hands of criminals.”
Under Liu’s proposal, adults age 21 and over could possess up to one ounce of marijuana, which would be grown, processed, and sold by government-licensed businesses for recreational or medicinal purposes. A strict driving under the influence enforcement policy would be implemented concurrently, and marijuana use in public would be prohibited.
To study issues related to regulation, Liu called for the creation of an interagency task force comprised of the NYPD, Administration for Children’s Services, Department of Education, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, District Attorneys, and Department of Consumer Affairs. The task force would work with the New York State Senate and Assembly in order to pass the appropriate legislation authorizing the full implementation of the plan.
New York City’s current market for marijuana is estimated to be around $1.65 billion annually. Basing its calculations on average consumption rates and the approximate number of users among New York City residents and commuters, the Comptroller’s office estimated that taxing the sale of marijuana would generate approximately $400 million annually, of which roughly $69 million would go to the State and MTA in the form of higher sales taxes. The office calculated that the City could save another $31 million by reallocating time and resources expended by law enforcement and the judicial system on marijuana-related arrests. It did not analyze other economic benefits, such as the reduction in associated incarceration, costs of those arrested, and potential tourist-generated tax revenue. For a detailed explanation of the estimation and methodology, please view Regulating and Taxing Marijuana: The Fiscal Impact on NYC [].
But the social arguments for legalizing marijuana are even more compelling, the study found. Because of stop and frisk, minority communities disproportionately bear the consequences of marijuana arrests in New York City — especially the long-term damage to opportunities for employment, post-secondary education, and housing. Combined, blacks and Hispanics make up 45 percent of marijuana users in New York City, but account for 86 percent of possession arrests. By contrast, whites and Asians constitute 55 percent of users but only 14 percent of arrests. In 2012, 1 out of 627 white New Yorkers was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession, compared to 1 out of 175 Hispanics and 1 out of 94 African-Americans.

More than half (56 percent) of marijuana possession arrests in New York City are of those age 25 and under — a group for whom the negative effects of an arrest or criminal record is especially acute. Convictions can affect people’s eligibility for federal student loans and NYCHA housing, and a history of arrest can bar them from many jobs.
Low-level marijuana arrests have skyrocketed during Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration and are directly related to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk strategy. Since Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002, there have been almost 460,000 misdemeanor marijuana arrests. The number of these arrests is on track to reach 37,000 in 2013 alone.

Liu’s proposal comes on the heels of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that the Administration was overhauling federal sentencing guidelines to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Liu hailed the Holder move as “a solid step forward” but said the plan did not represent enough real progress for New Yorkers because it did not address the need to decriminalize marijuana or the growing conflict between state and federal laws in this area.

2013-08-14 "New York City Comptroller Releases Report Detailing the Financial and Human Costs of Marijuana Prohibition; Report Calls for the Taxation and Regulation of Marijuana for Adults, Advocates Demand a Comprehensive Overhaul of New York's Racially Biased and Broken Marijuana Policies"
from "Drug Policy Alliance" []:
DPA Network is the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs. We envision new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights and a just society in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more.
NEW YORK - August 14 - Today, New York City Comptroller John Liu released his report calling for a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use []. The report comes just two days after Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin condemned the city’s police department’s use of stop and frisk – which has resulted in 600,000 unlawful arrests for marijuana possession since 1997 – as racially-biased. That same day, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for Americans to rethink the “unintended consequences” of the war on drugs. Comptroller Liu’s report details the problems associated with marijuana arrests in New York City -- including racial disparities and the impact of saddling young people with a permanent criminal arrest record -- and the overall financial costs of marijuana prohibition.
In growing shift, the federal government and states around the country are engaged in a significant review of drug policies generally and marijuana policies in particular. On Monday, Attorney General Holder noted that the war on drugs has resulted in “the decimation of certain communities, in particular of communities of color” and directed federal prosecutors to develop guidelines for some drug sentencing issues to be handled on the state or local level. Many states have already moved ahead with significant reforms to marijuana policy. Twenty states now permit the use of medical marijuana; fourteen states, including New York and, most recently, New Hampshire, have some kind of decriminalization law on the books; and voters in two states – Colorado and Washington – recently voted to end prohibition by taxing and regulating marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21. By creating a regulatory regime, Colorado and Washington are bringing under the rule of law the production, sale and use of marijuana. Recent national surveys find that a majority of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana.
“New Yorkers, like people elsewhere around the country, are questioning our broken polices related to marijuana,” said gabriel sayegh, New York Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Comptroller Liu’s report offers another important opportunity for New Yorker to examine the issues and discuss the range of options for fixing these laws – including ending failed prohibition. An increasing number of elected officials in the City and state agree that our marijuana policies are broken—resulting in racial disparities, Constitutional violations, fiscal waste and needless suffering. While there may not be widespread agreement about how to fix these problems, it’s critical that we have an open and vigorous debate about the issue.”
New York leads the nation in marijuana possession arrests, making more arrests than every other state in the country, including California, Florida and Texas. As noted in a recent ACLU report, in 2010, 97% of all marijuana offenses in New York were for possession only. The vast majority of those arrested (85%) are Black and Latino, mostly young men, even though numerous government studies report that young white men use marijuana at higher rates.
Marijuana policy is also being debated, examined and revised at the international level. In May, the Organization of American States produced a report [], commissioned by heads of state of the region, predicting a likely hemispheric move towards marijuana legalization in the coming years. And in an effort to undercut the violence related to drug prohibition, the Uruguayan House of Representatives recently approved a bill to legally regulate marijuana and create the world’s first government-regulated system of production, distribution and dispensing.
Studies show that criminalizing and arresting people for marijuana possession does little to prevent the use of marijuana. In national surveys, young people consistently report that it's easier to buy marijuana than alcohol, and under our current punitive system of prohibition, 20.5% of New York high school students report using marijuana in the past 30 days versus the 12.5% who have used cigarettes, which are carefully regulated. Many experts see the taxation and regulation of marijuana as a more effective way of controlling teen use than our current failed approaches.

Studies have also shown that these arrests have little to no public safety value. A recent report by Human Right Watch showed that the vast majority of people who enter the criminal justice system with an arrest for public possession of marijuana rarely go on to commit violent crimes. However, these arrests exact a profound human toll and can have far-reaching adverse consequences for those arrested, including lessening their opportunities for employment, education, housing, and loans.

Recent estimates show that New York state spends approximately $675 million a year enforcing marijuana possession laws, and most of these arrests occur in New York City. Fixing New York’s marijuana laws would save hundreds of millions every year, which could be reinvested into the community increasing the quality of life for all New Yorkers. By enacting a regulatory framework, the City and state could capture tax revenue that is, currently, largely under the control of criminal enterprises.

Legislators in Albany have been taking steps to address the myriad problems in New York’s current marijuana policies. Last year, the Governor proposed legislation to address police misconduct and racial disparities in marijuana arrests by standardizing some marijuana possession laws, making possession of marijuana in public view a violation, rather than misdemeanor. Legislators continue work to pass a medical marijuana proposal, with the Assembly passing a tightly-crafted bill earlier this year. And this spring, Senator Liz Krueger announced her intention to introduce a bill that will tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol in New York State. At the City level, the NY City Council has passed resolutions in favor of state legislation both to allow access to medical marijuana and standardize possession of marijuana in public view. And New York City mayoral candidates, such as Democrat Sal Albanese and Republican Joe Lhota, have called for the full legalization of marijuana.

“The data are clear – our current marijuana policies are doing more harm than good. They’re racially biased, ineffective, wasteful, and counterproductive,” said sayegh. “We need to rethink how we can enhance the health and safety of all New Yorkers through sensible reforms, informed by research and sound science. We can enact reforms that make good moral and monetary sense; we can address human costs as well as save millions that can be reinvested in our communities. Tackling these issues will require a vigorous, informed debate. Hopefully this report and other emerging developments – from Holder’s comments to Judge Scheindlin’s ruling on top and frisk to the growing number of reform initiatives at home and abroad – will spur such a discussion, because we can do better, and in fact we must.”

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