Lawmakers might use legal marijuana taxes to fix New York’s subways

Commuters ride in a New York City subway during the morning rush hour in November.
Commuters ride in a New York City subway during the morning rush hour in November.(Wong Maye-E/Associated Press)

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New York’s subway system could get a much-needed upgrade if the state opts to fully legalize marijuana, according to a new report.

Officials have estimated that the state stands to reap as much as $750 million in tax revenue per year from cannabis sales. And some lawmakers are already backing the idea of using some of those funds to fix the city’s faltering subways.


“The biggest issue we hear about as elected officials is the state of the subway system,” New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson told The New York Times. “To be able to tie these things together is something that could be highly impactful and potentially transformative.”

“Now that the Democrats are going to be in control of the Senate with a large majority, I’m going to look with my colleagues in the Senate to have this conversation.”

A state panel tasked with coming up with potential funding sources for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is considering cannabis legalization as one of about a dozen revenue-generating proposals to fund subway repairs, a Democratic senator told the Times.

The new report, published by New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, says that establishing a retail marijuana market in the state would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that could be allocated to the MTA.

“Without additional revenues to pay for the repair and modernization of the subways, it will be difficult for riders to sustain their trust in the subway system,” the report authors wrote. “Legalizing and taxing cannabis should be considered in designing any policies to improve the mass transit and commuter rail systems under the control of the MTA.”


While New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hasn’t weighed in on the prospect, he has changed his tune on cannabis quite a bit over the past year, instructing the New York Department of Health to assess the impact of legalization and supporting its finding that the pros outweigh the cons. He’s since formed a working group to draft a legalization bill that’s expected to be taken up during the next legislative session, which begins in January.

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