A new poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance has revealed that most New Yorkers want to legalize marijuana as means of solving the state’s budget issues. Sixty-two percent of voters supported legalizing marijuana use for adults 21 and older and only twenty-eight percent did not.

“This poll signals that New Yorkers favor using revenue from a legal marijuana market to address our budget deficit and lawmakers would be wise to heed their opinion,” stated Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The poll was conducted by Emerson College and revealed that legalizing and taxing marijuana the most accepted way to eliminate New York’s budget deficit as sixty percent of that state’s voters support it. Another 15% to 27% of voters supported other options that included increasing sales or income taxes, increasing tolls, or reducing funding for public education. It was estimated by Governor Cuomo’s budget office that the state will confront a $4.4 billion deficit for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, beginning April 1.

“This should be a wake-up call to lawmakers: New Yorkers want their state to take a sensible, humane approach to marijuana policy,” said Landon Dais, political director of a nonprofit organization. “New York should stop wasting resources punishing otherwise law-abiding residents for using a substance that is safer than alcohol,” Dais added.

Dais’ organization has estimated that during the first year, legalization of marijuana could generate $183 million in state and local sales tax revenue and over $555 million annually by 2025. Dais also believes that legalization would generate additional revenue through licensing fees and increased economic activity, which includes the formation of up to 40,000 new jobs.

New York has only legalized restricted medical uses of marijuana to date. Cuomo has also made it clear that he does not support legalizing recreational use.

State Sen. Liz Krueger has sponsored legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, but the bill has continually deferred in the GOP-controlled state Senate. Yet, Krueger believes momentum is slowly developing and “it’s only a matter of time” before legal marijuana reaches New York as more and more states have legalized marijuana. Massachusetts is one of the states that has legalized marijuana, with sales expected to begin sometime next year and New Jersey’s incoming Gov. Phil Murphy promised to fight legislation legalizing marijuana.

“When it’s on your border and people can cross over and get it, you start to wonder what does it mean for New York State not to legalize it,” Krueger said.

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