Each year, the Independent Budget Office releases a data-driven report on the various ways New York City can save and raise money. In line with the changing attitude on weed, data for 2014 (PDF doc) includes a figure on how much can be raked in from from legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. According to the IBO, if the city excised a 4.5% sales tax on legal weed purchases, it could generate “approximately $25 million annually, with the potential to increase in future years.”
And that’s on the conservative side of things. After all, we’re talking about weed here, not sneakers and clothes. Cities like San Jose in California charge 10% on gross receipts, so it’s not unreasonable for NYC to levy a 9% tax, upping the initial estimate to $50 million.
This estimate by the IBO also doesn’t calculate the revenue driven by other industries that legalization fuels — such as tourism, advertising, real estate, banking, and paraphernalia — or adjust for the money the city would save by no longer arresting people (mostly of color) for possession of weed. According to police watchdog group PROP, the city is on track to spend over $400 million on misdemeanor arrests, many of which get dismissed and unfairly target minorities. That amount could decrease slightly now that new/old guidelines for weed possession have been adopted, allowing cops to issue a citation to a person possessing 25 grams or less instead of busting them at an estimated cost of about $1750 per arrest.
And of course, these findings can’t take into account the amount of cool points New York City would gain by becoming the Amsterdam of North America — which is priceless.